A Hong Kong activist charged with violating the mask mandate while rallying support for defendants outside court as the city’s largest national security trial began has said he would plead not guilty.
Appearing at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning, Dickson Chau said he intended to deny the charge, local media reported.
Chau was handed a HK$5,000 fine on February 6 while he and other members from the pro-democracy group League of Social Democrats (LSD) gathered outside West Kowloon Law Courts Building.
That morning, which marked the start of the 47 democrats’ trial, the activists arrived at the court to stage a protest and rally support for the dozens of defendants accused of conspiracy to commit subversion under Beijing’s national security law.
Chau – the vice chairperson of the LSD – was later taken away by police on suspicion of violating the Covid-19 mask mandate while speaking through a loudhailer. The rule was still in place at the time and only lifted a month later.
Standing before Magistrate Kestrel Lam on Wednesday morning, the activist told the court he would formally enter his plea at a later time. As the prosecution requested more time to prepare a testimony by a police witness, the case was adjourned to June 14, local media reported.
The group’s current leader Chan Po-ying and its former chairperson Raphael Wong were both in the public gallery, according to local media The Witness.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
In 2021, 47 prominent democrats were charged under the security law with “conspiracy to commit subversion,” after they organised primaries in a bid to win the 2020 legislative election. They are accused of planning to use legislative powers to indiscriminately veto bills, whilst forcing the chief executive’s resignation and a government shutdown. Most were detained for almost two years awaiting trial.
Ex-lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, the former chairperson of LSD, is among those facing trial before a panel of three handpicked national security judges.
Other defendants include ex-District Councillors Tat Cheng, Clarisse Yeung and Kalvin Ho, as well as former Stand News journalist Gwyneth Ho.
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