The sedition trial against shuttered Hong Kong media outlet Stand News was adjourned again on Friday after the prosecution submitted four new boxes of materials, a move that was criticised by the defence.

The prosecution’s questioning of Stand News’ former chief editor Chung Pui-kuen in front of Judge Kwok Wai-kin at District Court continued on Friday, almost a month after he first took the stand to deliver his testimony. Chung – along with the outlet’s former acting chief editor Patrick Lam and its parent company – stands accused of conspiring to publish “seditious publications.”

Chung Pui-kuen, former chief editor of Stand News, at the District Court on January 26, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

The prosecution revealed on Friday that they had yet to reach the “core” of their questioning – 17 allegedly seditious Stand News articles admitted as evidence in the trial. However, they presented four additional boxes of documents that lead prosecutor Laura Ng said would illustrate the “social context” at the time of the alleged offence.

The trial began in October and was initially scheduled to last 20 days.

Defence counsel Audrey Eu, however, said the documents had been “unfairly” submitted late.

“As I was going to take off last night – I had a dinner date with my friend – I received four boxes of new files from the prosecution, with over 400 items, most of which are new documents that I have never seen before,” Eu said.

“I don’t even have the time to read them, let alone the defendant.”

Audrey Eu arriving at High Court on Nov. 28, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Calling the prosecution’s handling “unbelievable,” Eu said too many unfair situations had occurred in this trial, including the disclosure of hundreds of Stand News articles that had been archived by the police, which led to the defence application to terminate the trial in late 2022.

Eu also questioned Ng’s “endless” scope of questions – including Stand News’ terminology, how the outlet handled criticism from the pro-establishment camp, and addressing articles and satirical images that were not among the 17 admitted articles – especially when Chung was not allowed to discuss the case with his legal team during the testimonial period.

Ng explained that the extra case materials would be used to show Chung’s acknowledgement of the social context of the time. Whether the 17 articles were seditious was not the main focus, Ng said, since “under a different social context, the same article could have a different impact.”

Stand News acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam was arrested by national security police on Wednesday. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

In response, Eu questioned why the prosecution has not submitted the case materials earlier if if social context was such an important basis for prosecution.

She then assumed a softer tune when discussing the two defendants.

“Your honour, I am concerned that I would not have fulfilled my responsibility as a defence counsel had I not opposed the prosecution’s handling. Even if the two defendants end up being convicted, the trial should at least be fair and just,” Eu said.

Judge Kwok ruled the new materials were admissible.

However, Kwok agreed that Chung had the right to read through the extra materials before continuing to testify. He granted Chung permission to talk with his legal team, and adjourned the trial until next Wednesday.

Stand News’ home page on December 28, 2021, a day before it was shut down. The headlining story was about Apple Daily news executives given an additional charge of conspiracy to publish seditious materials, the same charge it now faces. Photo: Wayback Machine.

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. Sedition is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

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. They were both granted bail after being held in custody for nearly a year.

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Lea Mok

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.