A former top editor of Hong Kong news outlet Stand News facing sedition charges has been granted bail after spending almost a year in custody pending trial.
Chung Pui-kuen, who was the chief editor of the independent news outlet, was granted HK$100,000 cash bail on Tuesday.
Chung, 53, and his co-defendant Patrick Lam, 34, alongside Stand News’ parent company Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, stand accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications.” Lam was granted bail last month.
The sedition case against Stand News continued at District Court on Tuesday.
The defence last month applied to terminate the case after a significant amount of new evidence came to light. “The situation has developed, and we aren’t responsible for it,” defence counsel Audrey Eu told the court in November.
Chung applied for bail as he was unable to review all of the new material from remand. Eu said she had visited Chung four times in the reception centre since last month, however Chung was unable to read through recently revealed evidence as visiting hours were only four hours in total and document folders were not allowed to be sent to detainees.
Eu also said that Chung’s wife, Chan Pui-man, who was a top editor at Apple Daily, was currently in custody for collusion with foreign forces, “so the risk of Chung fleeing is basically zero.”
Eu said Chung, whose monthly salary at Stand News was HK$76,500, could not afford cash bail of more than HK$50,000.
However, prosecutor Laura Ng objected the bail application, saying that Chung had a property in Stanley, which showed that he could afford more than the bail amount proposed by the defence.
Judge Kwok Wai-kin said he believed that the chance of Chung endangering national security was low, but the cash bail should reflect the seriousness of the charge. Kwok granted HK$100,000 bail for Chung with a surety of HK$50,000.
Chung’s passport was also confiscated. He cannot leave Hong Kong, be interviewed by the media, or commit any action that could endanger national security.
Non-profit online news outlet Stand News ceased operations last December after its newsroom was raided by more than 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the publication – including Chung and Lam – were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to publish seditious publications.
Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts and mandates up to life imprisonment. Those convicted under the sedition law – last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still a British colony – face a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Additional reporting: Mercedes Hutton