Some 23 others facing prosectution under colonial-era charge
First guilty verdict under law since British handover to China
By Kari Soo Lindberg 2 marzo 2022, 06:02 CET
Tam Tak-chi during a protest in May 2020.
Photographer: Roy Liu/Bloomberg
A Hong Kong radio host has been found guilty of sedition, local media reported, the Beijing-backed government’s first conviction in a wave of prosecutions under a long-dormant colonial-era law.
Pro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi was found guilty of 11 counts by Judge Stanley Chan, according to Hong Kong Free Press, including seven counts of sedition that each carried a maximum sentence of two years in prison. He was acquitted on charges of “conspiracy to utter seditious words” and “disorderly conduct in a public place.” Tam, who had been held without bail for more than a year, was accused of uttering seditious words with the intention of inciting “hatred or contempt” against the Hong Kong government. That included saying the now-banned protest phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” as well as “death to corrupted police families,” according to the now-shuttered Stand News, which cited the prosecution’s indictment. He repeated a variety of these phrases several hundred times between January and August in 2020, Stand News reported.
Authorities have arrested at least 23 individuals for inciting or publishing seditious text or materials including a group of speech therapists who published three books with political themes. The law was passed in 1938 and rarely used outside of a series of leftist riots in the 1960s. Tam’s conviction is the first since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. The Court of Final Appeal ruled that the higher threshold for bail set by a China-drafted national security law can apply to other cases, such as sedition, when charges are brought by security police. That has deepened concerns the security law would be employed to limit the rights of a wider group of defendants than just those accused of violating the four crimes outlined in the measure. Scores of those charged under the security law have been held in pre-trial detention for almost a year.
In April, Tam lost his legal fight to have the case thrown out. His lawyers had argued that the sedition law was unconstitutional as it disproportionately restricts the freedom of expression guaranteed by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. The prosecution countered that the defense could only challenge the constitutionality of the law at trial.
Tam is also one of the 47 Hong Kong activists charged with subversion under the security law for their role in a primary election. The next return date is scheduled for March 4.