A Hong Kong court heard testimony from an officer involved in the arrest of a former chief editor of defunt independent Hong Kong outlet Stand News, as the sedition trial against the veteran journalist and a former colleague entered its 15th day.

Giving testimony at District Court on Friday, the national security police officer recalled that Chung Pui-kuen said, “I’m Stand News’ editor-in-chief, other people have nothing to do with this,” as he was arrested at his home on December 29, 2021.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

That same day, the independent outlet ceased operations and shut down its website after its newsroom was raided by hundreds of national security police. Chung, who has stepped down from the post of editor-in-chief at the time, and acting chief editor Patrick Lam were arrested. They stand accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications.”

According to the officer’s testimony, Chung only requested to meet his lawyer after police had taken his initial testimony at Kowloon City Police Station. Chung then had a private meeting with his lawyer before recording another testimony – accompanied by his lawyer – in the Kowloon West Regional Headquarters.

The prosecution said they would play the recorded testimony, which is more than an hour long, in court on Monday.

WhatsApp chat history

According to local media, a police witness told the court on Thursday that when police took Chung’s mobile phone when he was arrested, they put it into airplane mode then changed its settings to permanently unlock it.

Stand News Chung pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen and Patrick Lam on December 13, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Police took more than a hundred screenshots of Chung’s WhatsApp chat history with Lam and another senior editor, Kenny Leung, from two chat groups. The groups were set up by Chung on December 15, 2021 – nearly two months after he stepped down from the post of editor-in-chief.

Chung resigned from Stand News in October of that year after his wife, Chan Pui-man, was arrested for conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country and was denied bail. Chan was the associate publisher of another defunct news outlet, Apple Daily.

The screenshots of the WhatsApp chat history showed Chung asking Lam and Leung questions about various published Stand News’ articles, and proposing headlines and news angles.

In her opening statement, lead prosecutor Laura Ng told the court that Chung remained involved in Stand News’ editorial decisions even after his resignation.

The trial will continue on Monday.

stand news website
The Stand News website now returns a message about the outlet ceasing its operations.

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.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.