Stand News “sedition” trial continues, with lack of due process

Patrick Lam and Chung Pui-Kuen, editors of the independent news outlet Stand News, were arrested in December 2021. Their trial for conspiracy to publish “seditious materials” had already taken 36 days by February 2023, exceeding the planned duration of 20 days, and will tentatively take until the end of March.

Lack of due process was a common feature throughout the trial. On multiple occasions, judge Kwok Wai-kin allowed the prosecution to ambush the defence by adducing new evidence and documents in the middle of the trial. The prosecution continued to do so even after they had closed their case.

Department of Justice (“DOJ”) prosecutor Laura Ng’s cross-examination of Chung was riddled with abuse. She often demanded him to speculate on the intention of interviewees’ remarks in journalistic reports, and the intention of authors of commentaries. Ng also asked Chung to answer hypothetical questions of dubious relevance, such as asking him whether he would approve of an interview with Osama Bin Laden and Vladimir Putin. In contrast, Chung’s testimony was a forceful defence of the freedom of expression and the importance of the circulation of different ideas in society. Both Lam and Chung had spent nearly a year in pre-trial detention before they were granted bail in November and December 2022 respectively. They had been kept in prolonged pre-trial detention due to the judgment of the Court of Final Appeal (“CFA”) in the “Sheep Village” children’s books case, where the court decided that the presumption against bail within the NSL also extended to “sedition” cases. Since sedition carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail, if Lam and Chung are convicted, they will have served most, if not all, of their sentence before the trial even began.

(This article originally appeared as an item in the Jan-Feb 2023 edition of our newsletter.)

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