Hong Kong official slams 'violence' as court window shatters during subversion trial

Police search near courtroom with metal detectors amid reports an airgun shot was fired.
By Ng Ting Hong for RFA Cantonese
2023.02.09
Hong Kong official slams 'violence' as court window shatters during subversion trial Policemen stand guard outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts ahead of the national security trial for the pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.
Credit: Associated Press

Hong Kong Justice Secretary Paul Lam condemned "violence and intimidation" targeting the judiciary after a projectile broke a court window during the prominent subversion trial of 47 opposition activists on Wednesday, prompting police to search the area with metal detectors.

"I am immensely concerned about the incident, and strongly condemn any violent acts intended to disrupt or damage the due administration of justice," Lam said in a statement late Wednesday. "No act of violent attack or intimidation, which is against the courts or judicial officers, will be tolerated."

He said anyone seeking to "disrupt social order" will be pursued, and that judicial processes would remain unaffected by the incident, which came amid the most high-profile political trial so far under a draconian national security law, which was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party as a response to the 2019 protest movement.

News photos of the outside of the West Kowloon Magistrates Court showed a cracked pane of glass in a wall of glass fronting the building.

The English-language South China Morning Post said there were reports that an airgun had been fired at the building.

Initial investigations suggested that someone had fired a "projectile" from the traffic flyover opposite the court building at 1:17 p.m., causing the glass to break, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

The court is currently in the process of trying 47 former pro-democracy lawmakers and political activists for "incitement to subvert state power" more than two years after they were rounded up in mass arrests. The prosecution has said their bid to win a majority of seats by running a primary election for pro-democracy candidates was "a conspiracy" to undermine the city's government and take control of the Legislative Council.

Former Stand News journalist Gwyneth Ho, a 2019 protest movement activist, former nursing student Owen Chow and labor unionist Winnie Yu are among those to stand trial in front of three government-picked national security judges and no jury, in a process described as a "sham" by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a tweet on Monday.

Sixteen of the 47 have pleaded not guilty, while 31 have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced along with the rest when the trial, which has been hearing opening statements from the prosecution all week, ends in around 90 days' time.

Prosecutors on Thursday accused Ho of "weaponizing the Legislative Council" with public statements and social media posts ahead of the primary, citing comments she made in a promotional video for her candidacy in the primary, as well as at a July 15, 2020, press conference.

The government regards plans by the democratic camp to veto the government's next budget, if they had won a majority, as evidence of subversion.

Returning Valiant

Meanwhile, the city's District Court on Thursday sentenced two members of the activist group Returning Valiant to five years' and five years three months' imprisonment for "conspiracy to incite subversion" after posts to the group's social media accounts called for "bloody revolution" and "a struggle with no limits."

Choi Wing-kit, 21, and Chris Chan, 26 were sentenced by designated national security judge Kwok Wai-kin, who said their offenses were "of a serious nature." Choi also pleaded guilty to possession of offensive weapons after two retractable batons were found at his home.

Five other members of the same group who were all under the age of 20 at the time of the alleged offenses were sentenced to a training center in October 2022.

All seven pleaded guilty to "conspiring to incite others to subvert state power," a charge that appeared to be based mostly on their efforts to spread their group's "seditious" ideas through a news conference and social media.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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