Three people have been jailed for five to 10 months after they pleaded guilty to selling copies of a “seditious book” at a Lunar New Year fair.

Alan Keung, known as “Pastor Keung,” who founded independent outlet Free HK Media, was sentenced to eight months behind bars by Principal Magistrate Peter Law under the colonial-era sedition law on Monday, local media reported.

Pastor Keung
Alan Keung Ka-wai, the founder of online outlet Free HK Media. Photo: Free HK Media, via Facebook.

Earlier this month, the 31-year-old and his co-defendants Alex Lee, 52, and Cannis Chan, 48, admitted to conspiring to promote, sell, or display for sale publications on Facebook, Instagram and at a stall at Ginza Plaza in Mong Kok between December 2, 2022 and January 17 with a seditious intention.

Lee, who was said to be the owner of the booth, was handed a prison term of five months. His wife Chan, on the other hand, was jailed for 10 months, the longest among the trio.

According to local media, the designated national security magistrate of the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts said the case was about more than spreading seditious messages on social media as it involved designing, producing and printing the publication in question.

Chan was described as the “instigator” and “core offender” in the case, who designed and produced 400 copies of the book. Prosecutors had told the court that the book contained accusations that Hong Kong police condoned criminals and triad activities, made up stories, and disregarded the law.

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

The publication did not include the author’s name or the publisher’s information, which the magistrate said was proof of a cover-up that was “carefully planned” by Chan, local media reports read. Law said the Free HK Media founder promoted the book on Facebook, while Lee provided a platform for sales.

While the offence took place after mass protests – sparked by the extradition bill in 2019 – had ebbed in the city, those who purchased the book “sympathised” with the protesters and the slogans chanted during the unrest, the court ruled.

Selling such a publication may lead to a “resurgence” in protesters’ sentiments and amounted to “planting a time bomb” in society, Law remarked.

Leung, Lee and Chan were among six people arrested by national security police in January, after undercover officers visited the fair numerous times. The other arrestees have not been formally charged.

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.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.