The prosecution has completed its questioning of the former chief editor of shuttered independent Hong Kong media outlet Stand News after 26 days.

Chung Pui-kuen, Stand News’ former chief editor, Patrick Lam, the outlet’s former acting chief editor, and Stand News parent company stand accused of conspiring to publish “seditious” publications. Chung and Lam appeared before judge Kwok Wai-kin on Monday as the trial – which was initially set to last for 20 days – entered its 47th day. 

Stand News Chung Pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Chung Pui-kuen(left) and Patrick Lam(right) on 10 March, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Defence counsel Audrey Eu raised concerns over the prosecutor’s extensive cross-examination during the court session, stating that it may leave the defence with less time to question Chung.

“Most of the questions were obviously repeated… I sincerely invite you to leave some time for me to question the defendant, “ Eu told lead prosecutor Laura Ng.

De facto editor-in-chief’

Chung, 53, was chief editor of Stand News from 2015 until 2021, stepping down from the position that October, four months after the arrest of his wife, Chan Pui-man, who was the associate publisher of Apple Daily. The popular pro-democracy tabloid ceased operations after management staff and writers were arrested and charged with colluding with foreign forces in June that year.

As the prosecution approached the end of its questioning of Chung, Ng claimed that he had been the “de facto chief editor” of the news outlet during its last two months even though he had resigned in October. Lam had been Chung’s deputy before Chung’s resignation.

She asked Chung if he had warned Lam about the dangers of succeeding him as the chief editor, to which Chung replied that he had informed Lam of everything he knew and appreciated his decision to take on the role.

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

“Why didn’t you tell the police Lam was ‘innocent’ when you’re arrested?” Ng asked. Kwok, however, told Ng her question was dangerous since Chung had the right to remain silent when he was arrested.

“Yes, but he needs to point that out himself,” Ng said.

“I believe your question is dangerous,” Kwok insisted. 

Ng then dropped the question, and asked Chung if he thought Lam would have approved the allegedly “seditious” articles accepted as evidence in the trial, just as Chung had done.

The 17 allegedly seditious Stand News articles – click to view
  1. Profile of Gwyneth Ho, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 7, 2020.
  2. Profile of Owen Chow, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on July 27, 2020.
  3. Profile of Fergus Leung, a candidate in the 2020 legislative primaries held by the pro-democracy camp, published on August 12, 2020.
  4. Commentary by Chan Pui-man, Apple Daily’s former associate publisher, criticising speech crimes, published on September 12, 2020.
  5. Commentary by Nathan Law, a former lawmaker now in self-exile, on “how to resist” under the national security law, published on September 20, 2020.
  6. Profile of Law on his “battlefront” of calling for sanctions on the Hong Kong government in the UK, published on December 9, 2020.
  7. Commentary by Law on “resilience in a chaotic world,” published on December 13, 2020.
  8. Feature interview with Ted Hui, a former lawmaker in self-exile, after he fled Hong Kong with his family, published on December 14, 2020.
  9. Feature interview with Baggio Leung, a former lawmaker in self-exile, as he called for sanctions on Hong Kong and a “lifeboat scheme for Hongkongers,” published on December 15, 2020.
  10. Commentary by Sunny Cheung, an activist in self-exile, responding to being wanted by the Hong Kong government, published on December 28, 2020.
  11. Commentary by Allan Au, a veteran journalist, on “new words in 2020,” which included “national security,” “disqualified” and “in exile,” published on December 29, 2020.
  12. Commentary by Au calling a national security trial a show, published on February 3, 2021.
  13. Commentary by Law paralleling the mass arrests of candidates in the democrats’ primaries to mass arrests during Taiwan’s white terror period, published on March 2, 2021.
  14. Commentary by Au accusing the authorities of “lawfare” in usage of the sedition law, published on June 1, 2021.
  15. Commentary by Au describing Hong Kong as a disaster scene after the implementation of national security law, published on June 22, 2021.
  16. Feature about CUHK graduates’ march on campus to mourn the second anniversary of the police-student clash in 2019, published on November 11, 2021.
  17. Report on Chow Hang-tung’s response to being honoured with the Prominent Chinese Democracy Activist award, published on December 5, 2021.

Eu immediately opposed the question, “I don’t think the prosecutor can ask my client to assume what another individual would do in a hypothetical scenario.”

Ng took back the question and concluded that Chung knew the 17 articles were seditious.

Chung, however, denied all allegations.

Laura Ng
Lead prosecutor in Stand News’ sedition case Laura Ng (second left). Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Eu later pointed out inconsistencies in Ng’s claims, noting that she had previously stated that two of the 17 articles were edited by Patrick Lam, yet later claimed that Chung was the de facto editor-in-chief. 

“Do you know on what basis did prosecutor Ng accuse you of this?” Eu asked.

“Frankly, no,” Chung answered.

Chung claimed that he had not logged into Stand News’ internal system since his resignation, and had only contacted Lam via WhatsApp regarding typos in published articles. Eu said it was Chung’s “force of habit.”

“I had also received messages from fellow journalists, friends and ex-colleagues about typos in my articles before. As an editor, I appreciate reminders like that,” Chung said.


Ng asked Chung if the news outlet had adhered to journalistic ethics enacted by news agencies and the Hong Kong Journalists’ Association. Chung said that he did not believe every ethical principle was suitable for Stand News.

Eu then followed up and asked Chung why Stand News had violated the journalistic principle formulated by the Council of Europe that discouraged self-censorship. 

“Indeed, self-censorship is a big deal to journalists, I was reluctant to do it if it were not necessary… But it reached a stage when I needed to violate that principle in order to protect the organisation and my colleagues,” Chung said.

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

During previous hearings, 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. Ng also questioned Chung about Stand News’ article database.

Chung explained that the website was shut down by his staff on the day he was arrested due to safety concerns, and he specifically instructed them not to access the website server anymore to avoid legal consequences. 

He also revealed that the national security police had contacted him regarding a fake Stand News UK website online, which made him apprehensive about taking any further action.

Sedition law

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 digital news outlet Stand News ceased operations and deleted its website in December 2021 after its newsroom was raided by over 200 national security police officers. Seven people connected to the independent outlet were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to “publish seditious publications.” However, only ex-chief editor Chung Pui-kuen, acting chief editor Patrick Lam and parent company Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited were charged under the colonial-era law.

Advocacy groups, the UN, and western countries criticised the arrests as a sign of declining media freedoms, while now-Chief Executive John Lee condemned “bad apples” who “polluted” press freedom following the raids. 

The trial began in October 2022 with the court considering 17 allegedly seditious articles, including interviews, profiles, hard news reporting and opinion pieces. Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed security law and carries a maximum penalty of two years behind bars.

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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.