The verdict in the sedition trial against now-defunct media outlet Stand News has been postponed to November 15, more than a year after the trial began.

After the court heard closing arguments in June, Judge Kwok Wai-kin originally said that a verdict was to be handed down October 4.

Stand News Chung Pui-kuen Patrick Lam
Patrick Lam and Chung Pui-kuen on June 27, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Chung Pui-kuen, former chief editor of the digital outlet, and Patrick Lam, former acting editor, stand accused of conspiring to publish seditious publications along with the outlet’s parent company, Best Pencil Limited.

Both defendants had spent over a year behind bars, before they were granted bail at the beginning of the trial last year.

Sedition carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, including the time already served during custody. 

stand news homepage final
Stand News’ home page on December 29, 2021 before it was shut down.

The landmark case, which began last October, was originally set to last for 20 days. It eventually ended in June, after 56 days in court, and involved lengthy cross-examinations of over 17 allegedly seditious articles published by the independent outlet.

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.

Stand News ceased operations and deleted its website in December 2021 after over 200 national security police officers raided its newsroom.

In all, seven people connected to the non-profit news outlet were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to “publish seditious publications.” However, only ex-chief editor Chung, acting chief editor Lam and parent company Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited were charged.

The sedition law

In the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and unrest, and following Beijing’s imposition of the national security law in 2020, the authorities have increasingly invoked the colonial-era sedition law, which laid dormant for over half a century until its revival.

flag-raising SAR Establishment Day ceremony wanchai exhibition centre bauhinia square
Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day ceremony in Wan Chai on Saturday July 1, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Both sedition and national security law trials are handled by judges who have been handpicked to hear such cases.

Aside from the Stand News trial, a case involving a “seditious” children’s book, and the trials against democrats Tam Tak-chi and Koo Sze Yiu, most people facing a sedition charge have not been activists or politicians. Rather, ordinary people – from service industry workers to delivery staff – have faced such charges, AFP reported in July.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.