An additional six articles published by the shuttered independent media outlet Stand News have been flagged by the prosecution for potentially violating Hong Kong’s colonial-era sedition law, as the hearing to terminate the allegedly “unfair” trial entered its third day.
The sedition trial against former Stand News’ chief editors Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam – both accused of conspiring to distribute seditious publications – was halted after it was revealed during a witness testimony that the police had archived hundreds more articles than those provided by the prosecution to the defence as evidence.
Consequently, the defence applied for a permanent stay of proceedings to terminate the trial.
In front of Judge Kwok Wai-kin at District Court On Monday, the prosecution read out six new articles. Lead prosecutor Laura Ng argued that if the prosecution had known about the 587 archived articles, they would have selected more to be presented as evidence for the trial.
“The newly-disclosed articles would have been more useful to our case than to the defence’s,” Ng told the court, saying that the newly emerged articles could have proved the pattern of the defendants’ conspiracy.
Two of the six articles were written by veteran journalist Allan Au, who was also the author of five allegedly “seditious” commentaries already admitted as evidence. One was written by self-exiled former lawmaker Nathan Law and two were written by the outlet’s former editor Lam Yin-pong.
The last article was a news write-up by an unidentified author from Stand News’ UK bureau.
Six more articles suspected of being “seditious” – click to view
- A brief analysis of the national security law by Lam Yin-pong published a day after the law was implemented in June 2021.
- A commentary on “how to respond in an era when rebellion is a crime” by Nathan Law in January after the mass arrests of democrats involved in unofficial primary elections.
- A commentary calling then-secretary for security John Lee “vicious” by Allan Au after the aforementioned mass arrests.
- A commentary calling the first court mention of the 47 democrats “an unjust trial” by Lam Yin-pong published days after the democrats were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion.
- A news write-up of rallies supporting the 47 democrats in the UK.
- A commentary by Allan Au on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying “nobody is above the law” when referring to the 47 democrats.
However, defence cousel David Ma said the subject matter in the stay hearing was not the content of the 587 disclosed articles, but the fact that national security police had intentionally disposed of an “enormous amount” of articles – of which the police said they could not recall the exact number – before selecting 587 articles to be archived.
According to a police testimony last week, national security police took a number of screenshots of the first page of articles. The police later archived the full version of 587 selected articles, and deleted the other screenshots.
Ma argued that it had been irresponsible of the police to delete the screenshots of other articles, as they were unused materials that should have been sent to the defence and could have been useful for the defence to build their case.
“For an important department like the National Security Department, dealing with a serious crime like this… I cannot accept the claim that they never thought their selection of articles could be disputed, and that they might need to save the archives,” Ma said.
The defence said they were unable to retrieve any Stand News’ articles, as the outlet’s website went dark after the chief editors and board members were arrested on December 29, 2021. Ma said the fair trial of this case hence relied on police archives.
The 587 newly-found articles have been admitted as evidence by the prosecution for proceedings related to the stay hearing. Ng said that Judge Kwok could read those he considered “necessary” to read.
Kwok will rule on the stay application on Thursday.
The anti-sedition legislation, which was last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still under British colonial rule, falls under the city’s Crimes Ordinance. It is separate from the Beijing-imposed national security law, and outlaws incitement to violence, disaffection and other offences against the authorities.
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.