Chow Hang-tung says she has no case to answer ahead of trial on 'incitement' charge

'There is no way I will be pleading guilty,' Hong Kong vigil organizer tells court.
By Yu Fat for RFA Cantonese
Chow Hang-tung, standing committee member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, announces that the pro-democracy organization will not submit documents to the police's National Security Department and that it will hold a meeting to vote on the group's dissolution, at a press conference at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong, Sept. 5, 2021.

Hong Kong barrister and rights activist Chow Hang-tung has said "pleading guilty" to national security charges against her would be "impossible," in a court hearing ahead of her trial for "incitement to subvert power."

The charges were brought against Chow and several fellow organizers of now-banned candlelight vigils commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre in Victoria Park.

"There is no way I will be pleading guilty," Chow told the court. "The pursuit of democracy isn't a crime, so I won't be pleading guilty."

Chow's hearing came amid an ongoing, city-wide crackdown on public criticism of the Hong Kong authorities and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the wake of a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020.

Chow and her defense attorney played out a number of video clips submitted by the prosecution as evidence for its claim that she and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China were using the vigils to incite the overthrow of the Chinese government.

They included someone reading out a list of all of those who died when the People's Liberation Army (PLA) suppressed weeks of peaceful, student-led protests on Tiananmen Square with machine guns and tanks on the night of June 3, 1989. and in the days that followed.

National security prosecutor Ivan Cheung tried to have the list of victims' names stopped, arguing that the clip was "inappropriate," only to be asked how it could be inappropriate if it formed part of the evidence being submitted by the prosecution, according to an account of the hearing posted by Chow's supporters on Facebook.

In total, the prosecution submitted 58 statements from 39 witnesses, 136 pieces of documentary exhibits and a number of video clips. It was unclear whether the clips deemed "inappropriate" would continue to be used as evidence.

Defense attorney Eric Shum said the prosecution had been given due warning that the defense would play the clips in court.

"We don't need lessons from you about this," Shum said.

"History of June 4 crackdown in 1989 and over 3 decades of commemorations in Hong Kong comes back in vivid images in open court as Chow Hang-tung replays video footage submitted by the prosecution as evidence against the Alliance's alleged ‘incitement to subversion’ offense," Agence France-Presse correspondent Xinqi Su tweeted from West Kowloon Magistrate's Court.

Chow said the Alliance was in favor of limiting the absolute power of the CCP, but denied it wanted to bring down the government, arguing that the two aren't the same thing, and that the charge of subversion doesn't hold water.

"To end one-party dictatorship is to limit the absolute power of a political party so it cannot do as it pleases and it must bear consequences for the crimes it committed," Su quoted Chow as saying.

Chow and her defense team are arguing that there is no case to be brought to trial.

Chow's stand in court came as former talk show host Wan Yiu-sing, known by his nickname Giggs, pleaded guilty to one charge of "seditious intent," over comments he made during online radio shows he hosted from August to October 2020, and three charges of "money-laundering."

Seditious intent under the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance is defined as "intent to arouse hatred or contempt of the Hong Kong [government] or to incite rebellion, and cause dissatisfaction with it."

The sedition charges under the 68-year-old Crimes Ordinance carry a maximum prison term of two years. They were revived by the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam during the 2019 protest movement and have been used to arrest Cheng Lai-king, the chairwoman of Central and Western District Council, and democracy activist Tam Tak-chi.

Wan waved to fans and family calling out messages of support in court on Thursday.

The sedition charges against Wan were based on his hosting, producing and uploading of online programs between February and November 2020 in which he is alleged to have provoked rebellion or incited hatred and contempt of the authorities.

The money-laundering charges were linked to his crowd-funding related transactions.

The charges were brought under Article 21 of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, and are believed to be linked to a series of shows he did on an educational aid program run by the democratic island of Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the CCP, and which has rejected Beijing's claims on its territory.

The charges carry a maximum jail term of five years in minor cases and up to 10 years in cases deemed "serious" by a government-appointed judge.

According to Hong Kong's English-language South China Morning Post, Wan had called on people to donate via Patreon to fund both his shows and the Taiwan aid program, leading to the accusation that he was "collaborating with a Taiwanese pro-independence group."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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