A former Hong Kong police officer has been sentenced to 10 months in jail after he was convicted under the colonial-era sedition law in connection with social media posts about the death of a marine officer.

Chui Chun-man appeared in front of Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday. The ex-police officer has been remanded in custody since last month following his conviction.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chui was found guilty of “doing an act or acts with seditious intentions.”

He was arrested and charged after he posted comments on the police Facebook page and his own page about the death of Marine officer Lam Yuen-yee in September 2021. Chui resigned from the Force two months later in November that year.

Lam died during a law enforcement operation against suspected smuggling. The speedboat carrying Lam capsized after colliding with a vessel carrying suspected smugglers. Her body was found on September 27, 2021.

Chui left comments on the police Facebook page including “the marine female officer should be dead,” and shared articles about Lam on his own social media page, according to the prosecution.

When Heung handed down her ruling last month, the acting principal magistrate rejected Chui’s claim that he made those comments out of discontent over an improper police deployment which led to Lam’s death.

Lam Yuen-yee funeral police
Photo: i-Cable screenshot.

The magistrate said that the ex-police officer’s testimony did not make sense, and that the defendant was “evasive” during crucial moments of cross examination.

During mitigation, Chui’s representative said that the ex-officer had not met with his mother because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Chui’s mother wrote a mitigation letter for her son, which said that Chui did not think it through before making such mean comments.

On Monday, Heung said that Chui “showed no remorse,” as the former police officer insisted that he did not have any seditious intention.

The magistrate also said that, while the atmosphere in Hong Kong at the time of the offence was calmer, there was still a risk of violence following the 2019 protests and unrest.

Veronica Heung.
Veronica Heung. Photo: Judiciary.

Chui’s intentional use of Facebook, and commenting on the police Facebook page was to increase the effect of his speech, said Heung.

“The defendant’s criminal liability is very serious,” said the magistrate, adding that imprisonment was the “only appropriate option.”

Heung also refused to grant bail to Chui pending appeal.

The sedition law, last amended in the 1970s, falls under the Crimes Ordinance and is different from the Beijing-imposed national security law. The colonial-era legislation outlaws incitement to violence, to disaffection and to other offences against the administration.

See also: Explainer: Hong Kong’s sedition law – a colonial relic revived after half a century

However, defendants charged under the sedition law also have to face the more stringent national security bail assessment, which cases handled by hand-picked national security judges.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.