Hong Kong editors used Stand News to praise criminals and promote illegal ideologies, says prosecutor at sedition trial
- Judge rejects defence challenge against admission of 10 reports as evidence saying prosecutors are entitled to prove continuous nature of offence
- Prosecutor says publications, comprising eight news reports and nine commentaries are manifestation of defendants’ criminal plot
Two former editors of the now-defunct Stand News portal conspired to use the popular site as a political platform beautifying “criminals” and promoting their “illegal” ideologies, prosecutors have argued in the media outlet’s sedition trial.
In a strongly-worded opening statement in the District Court on Tuesday, prosecutors accused the online news service and the two editors of publishing 17 seditious articles to support “forces opposing China and disrupting Hong Kong”, glorify their so-called acts of resistance, and disparage Beijing, the local administration and the national security law.
“All 17 articles in the present case were published [after] Hong Kong experienced unprecedented turmoil ... with the authorities of Beijing and the Hong Kong government being tested to the limit,” said prosecutor Laura Ng Shuk-kuen.
Former editor-in-chief Chung Pui-kuen, 53, and acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam Shiu-tung, 35, on Monday denied a joint count of conspiracy to publish and reproduce seditious publications. They face up to two years imprisonment if convicted.
Counsel earlier argued the 10 items should be excluded as the charge was laid more than six months after their publication, beyond the time limit within which prosecution can be initiated.
Judge Kwok Wai-kin, who is among the few jurists designated to oversee national security cases, ruled prosecutors were entitled to prove the continuous nature of the offence by relying on all available evidence.
Ng said the 17 publications, comprising eight news reports and nine commentaries in the form of “blog posts”, were the manifestation of the defendants’ criminal plot dating back to July 2020, soon after the adoption of the Beijing-decreed security legislation.
The accused would have furthered their agenda had it not been for a police crackdown on the opposition-leaning portal service on December 29 last year, she continued.
“Stand News published feature stories on public figures such as unlawful activists, absconded criminals and wanted suspects ... The writers of the relevant blog posts disseminated secessionist ideologies and repeatedly made unfounded allegations [against authorities],” the prosecutor said.
Ng said Stand News “showed no restraints” in advocating the “extremist and anti-government” beliefs of the three “offenders”.
The news outlet also ran an analysis by fugitive former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, who took a critical view on the trio’s “lawful” arrest, in a bid to “vindicate” the suspects and “crown them with halos”, the prosecutor added.
Stand News, instead of drawing the line at upholding the quartet’s “unlawful stances”, packaged them as “human rights warriors” and provided a stage for them to promote Hong Kong’s independence and foreign sanctions, the court heard.
Law additionally contributed a piece where he called for continued resistance against authorities.
Prosecutors urged the court to assess the 17 articles against the backdrop of a polarised society following the anti-government protests in 2019, the existence of “external forces” and “a large group of citizens [who] refused to accept Hong Kong was an inalienable part of China”, and Stand News’ political leanings.
The trial continues on Wednesday.