A pastor and a retired woman were convicted of sedition and sentenced to prison in Hong Kong on October 27. They had criticized the sentence a judge gave to a man who organized a vigil to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Rev. Garry Pang Moon-yuen, 59, and Chiu Mei-ying, 68, were arrested in April for allegedly causing a disturbance during a court hearing.
According to the report, Pang told Judge Cheng Lim-chi, “You have lost your conscience” and Chiu accused the judge of not following the law.
Pang was also found guilty of uploading videos to YouTube with negative views on how judges handled other cases.
The pastor had called the law “a tool to suppress dissent” in some videos, while in others he claimed that courts “no longer speak about the law” and that judges could make arbitrary decisions.
Pang was sentenced to one year in prison, while Chiu was ordered to serve a three-month prison term.
During his trial on September 15, Pang said, “What’s going on in the court right now is not only a legal battle over sedition but also a battle to defend human rights and freedoms, a battle of safeguarding conscience.”
He added, “I may have lost the case on paper, but in terms of defending conscience and justice, and in terms of safeguarding the rule of law, I am victorious.”
Since the CCP imposed the national security law, an increasing number of dissidents have also been charged with sedition offenses.
Hundreds of people have been arrested, imprisoned for their demand to live in democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, a state under the rule of law, which is guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration that led to the British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese Communist Party in 1997.
For decades, both Hong Kong and Macao were places that commemorated the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, where thousands of students were killed by the Chinese regime after calling for more freedom and democracy.
But since the CCP began cracking down on protests in 2019 and following the imposition of the national security law in 2020, many prominent activists attempting to commemorate the victims of the massacre have been arrested and imprisoned.
Last June, the Chinese regime banned the annual commemoration for the third year in a row, in an attempt to quell political dissent and as a way of tightening its grip on Hong Kong.
Currently, known dissidents arrested and sentenced include media mogul Jimmy Lai and 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen for supporting the national call for democracy during the 2019 and 2020 protests.
Freedom of expression is a basic human right that the Chinese regime undermines with its abusive laws.
Since then, Hong Kongers have been forced to give allegiance to the CCP, censorship, and repression.
Rule of law no longer exists in Hong Kong
A report by the World Justice Project (WJP) announced on October 26 that Hong Kong has fallen three places to number 22, with its law-based governance increasingly losing value.
Ted Piccone, senior adviser to WJP, links the decline to the CCP-imposed national security law.
Piccone said, “Since the law gives the executive significant power to prosecute peaceful protesters, opposition voices, and dissidents … it has limited people’s freedom of association, freedom of expression, and other fundamental right.”
Piccone said the security legislation also increased the government’s powers and diminished judicial independence, as the city’s leader could appoint judges to hear national security cases.
U.S. lawmakers on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in July called for human rights sanctions against Hong Kong prosecutors.
Silencing citizens through sedition arrests
Former trader, Raymond Chen, was charged with sedition and arrested after sharing posts on social media with negative views of the CCP and Hong Kong governments.
Chen was found guilty by the West Kowloon court of committing acts with seditious intent by posting images and text messages on his Telegram channel between July 2020 and June this year.
He had created the Telegram group “HK’s upcoming war of Independence,” the group had more than 500 members.
In the group, members shared the slogans “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times.”
The Telegram channel had not been updated since November last year, but police arrested Chen in June on allegations of offensive and public domain content.
Sedition is punishable by up to two years jail time for a first offense under the Crimes Ordinance.
The Court of Final Appeal has classified the offense as one capable of endangering national security.
Rising trend for sedition charges in recent months
One in five arrests by Hong Kong’s national security authorities in the past two years was for a sedition offense on the grounds that individuals made problematic speeches to Hong Kong officials.
Likewise, the police on the pretext of an investigation for the crime of sedition have a great deal of power under the national security law. Officers can arrest without evidence and conduct raids, have the power to confiscate a suspect’s passports without judicial approval, while the accused faces obstacles in applying for bail.
But the penalties imposed on those convicted have a maximum sentence of two years in prison for the first offense and three years for a subsequent offense, while those convicted through the national security law can be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Michael Davis, a former legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong Law School, said it was problematic for authorities to connect the crime of sedition with national security law by adopting the latter’s rules on procedural, bail and rights limits.
He said, “This is problematic as international standards in both common law and international practice otherwise would require that such charges involve speech with imminent threats and likelihood of violence, which most of these cases do not.”
Davis explained that the frequent use of the sedition charge had become a threat to basic free speech rights.
Currently, arrests in Hong Kong continue to increase and freedom of expression is violated, society is under surveillance and under constant threat, the concern of the international community is growing in the face of such a remarkable abuse of human rights by the Chinese regime.