World Hong Kong radio host in first 'sedition' trial since China handover
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US diplomatic trip comes 50 years after Kissinger’s secret China visit initiating relations between the two countries.Last Monday, US President Joe Biden – along with NATO, the European Union, Australia, the UK, Canada, Japan and New Zealand – slammed China for a wide-reaching cyberespionage campaign, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken said posed “a major threat to our economic and national security”.
A pro-democracy Hong Kong radio host went on trial Thursday for sedition in the first use of the colonial-era law since the city's handover to China as authorities broaden their criminalisation of dissent.
Tam Tak-chi, 48, is among a growing number of activists charged with sedition, a little-used decades-old law that prosecutors have dusted off in the last twelve months.
It is separate from the sweeping national security law that was imposed on Hong Kong last year, which has also been used to prosecute dissidents.
First judgment By controversial security law
For the first time, a court in Hong Kong has found a defendant in accordance with the controversial security law. The 24-year-old would be convicted of terrorism and incitement for separatism. © Felix Wong / Newscom / Picture Alliance Tong Ying Kit on the way to the court, shortly after his arrest in July 2020 (archive image) The judges put in the groundbreaking process to the former waiter Tong Ying Kit Terrorism and incitement to cleavage the former British colony of China to the burden.
Best known by his moniker "Fast Beat", online talk show host Tam faces eight sedition charges for slogans he either uttered or wrote between January and July last year.
He also faces other charges including inciting an unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.
At the opening of his trial on Thursday, prosecutors read out those slogans, as well as some pro-democracy speeches Tam gave, often littered with colourful Cantonese curse words.
The slogans included "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times", "Corrupt cops, all of your family go to hell", "Disband Hong Kong police, delay no more" and "Down with the Communist Party of China".
The trial is a watershed legal moment for Hong Kong because it will set a precedent for what political phrases and views are now deemed illegal as China looks to stamp out dissent following huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago.
The End of Free Speech in Hong Kong
The conviction of a pro-democracy activist is a watershed moment.For 15 days this month, prosecutors and defense lawyers in a Hong Kong courtroom wrangled over the history and parsed words in this phrase. The back-and-forth included numerous forays into the obscure in an attempt to pinpoint the exact meaning of the slogan, created five years ago and popularized during 2019’s pro-democracy protests. There were diversions into ancient Chinese history and poetry; the former nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek made a cameo, as did the American civil-rights leader Malcolm X.
- Forgotten relic -
On Tuesday, a Hong Kong court convicted a former waiter of terrorism and inciting secession in the first trial conducted under the new national security law.
During that trial, judges ruled that the popular protest slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" was secessionist and therefore a national security crime.
Tam's trial was delayed so judges could wait for Tuesday's verdict, which was from a higher court.
In Hong Kong, sedition is broadly defined as any words that generate "hatred, contempt or disaffection" towards the government or "encourage disaffection" among residents.
It was first penned by colonial ruler Britain in 1938 and had long been criticised as an anti-free speech law.
By the time of Hong Kong's 1997 handover, it had not been used for decades and was a largely forgotten relic on the statute books in a city that had become a regional bastion of free speech.
But China is currently remoulding Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image and the newly created national security police unit has resurrected the sedition law.
Last week, five members of a pro-democracy Hong Kong union that published children's books about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village were arrested for sedition.
Three have since been charged and remanded into custody.
Sedition carries up to two years in jail for a first offence.
In contrast, the national security law is much harsher with up to life in prison for those who are convicted of serious offences.
The USA offers a "refuge" to Hong Kong residents, an interference for China .
Hongkong-Securite / USA - China: the US offer a "refuge" to Hong Kong residents, an interference for China Hong Kong / Washington, August 6 (Reuters) - US President Joe Biden offered Thursday a "Refuge" to Hong Kong Residents in the United States, an announcement that the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong described as "Violent intervention" in the affairs of the city.