Shocking development in Hong Kong: on 5 April 2022, 6 were arrested for sedition for – get this – applause in court. Sedition is a draconian colonial-era law, and arrestees have mostly been held in prolonged pre-trial detention
Police say they “caused nuisance” in court and “affected jurisdictional dignity and court operations“. Whatever jurisdictional dignity means, the common law has an answer to this type of alleged conduct: contempt of court.
The sedition law is again used as a catch-all to crack down on freedom of speech, with over 40 arrests since 2020. At first, it caught calls for violence or independence; then critics of the police; then criticism of the judiciary; then criticism of covid policy.
UN experts have noted on multiple occasions that the sedition offence is not in compliance with human rights law. States that still have the offence limit it to situations where the accused incited the public to violence against the state.
Also note these 6 were for clapping during the hearing where Chow Hang-tung was alleged to have incited unauthorized assembly on 4 Jun 2021. We fear for ever more restrictions on court hearings related to June Fourth or NSL.
A greater theme at play here: as 1) the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal widened NSL provisions to also apply to sedition, and 2) the sedition offence becomes catch-all, many more actions will be caught and governed by the NSL. A trend to note.