In Hong Kong, TrialWatch is documenting the escalating crackdown on democracy, including through the use of the new National Security Law (NSL)—which UN experts recently said was “being improperly used to stifle the exercise of fundamental rights.” TrialWatch monitored the first trial in a set of proceedings against democracy leaders based on their participation in 2019 protests; the trial of journalist Bao Choy for accessing a government database to identify the vehicles at the scene of an attack on pro-democracy protesters; and the first case under the NSL. TrialWatch is also monitoring the NSL case against 47 elected officials, politicians and activists who face charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion,” which is ongoing. Through this monitoring, TrialWatch has exposed how the authorities are ‘hyper-charging’ cases in order to chill speech and assembly.
A former opposition politician and radio host, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison for uttering “seditious” words and for organizing and “inciting” others to join “unauthorized” assemblies protesting the National Security Law and police brutality. This first sedition trial in Hong Kong in over five decades violated the Tam Tak-Chi’s rights to free speech and a fair trial, a TrialWatch report found. It was given a ‘D’ by TrialWatch Expert Elizabeth Wilmshurst KC.
A twenty-four-year-old who volunteered as a medic during the 2019 protests in Hong Kong was convicted under the National Security Law of ‘inciting secession’ and ‘terrorist activities’ for displaying the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong Revolution of Our Times” and colliding with police officers at a protest while on his motorbike. He was given a severe nine-year sentence, despite the fact that the court acknowledged his conduct was not “the worst of its kind.” The Fairness Report on the case found that “the authorities used this first case not to punish serious criminal conduct but as an exemplar to chill speech and conduct by the general public” and gave the trial a grade of ‘D.’
Nine pro-democracy protesters were convicted of organizing and ‘knowingly participating in’ an ‘unauthorised assembly’ in violation of Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance based on their role in a peaceful protest. The defendants, who included Jimmy Lai, the owner of the since-shuttered Apple Daily, and Martin Lee, known as “The Father of Democracy” in Hong Kong, were charged long after the protests took place—when Chinese and Hong Kong government officials indicated they wanted a crackdown on demonstrations—and given significant prison sentences. Their case was the first in a series involving prominent pro-democracy figures based on participation in various 2019 protests. The Fairness Report on the case finds that the prosecution and sentence were a disproportionate response to peaceful activity and that the case could constitute an abuse of process, giving the proceedings a grade of ‘D.’
An award-winning journalist was convicted of ‘false statements’ and fined for accessing a public vehicle registration database in order to investigate an attack on pro-democracy protesters. The case was brought against the backdrop of efforts to control Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), for which Bao Choy was working. The Fairness Report on the case gave the trial a grade of ‘C,’ finding that Bao Choy “was convicted of obscure charges simply for how she filled out an online form, routinely used by journalists and others without penalty,” and that on this basis there were concerns that the case was “brought selectively and with improper motives to chill exercise of free expression.”
TrialWatch is monitoring proceedings against 47 elected officials, politicians and activists who face charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion” for their participation in the political process in Hong Kong—namely, organizing a democratic primary. For instance, according to the complaint, they are accused of “conspiring” to organize an electoral primary, with the accusation noting: “But for the postponement of the Election due to COVID-19 pandemic, Dl-D47 would have perpetrated further to complete their conspiracy to commit subversion.”
Tam Tak Chi, former opposition politician and radio host, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison in the first sedition trial in Hong Kong in over five decades. The trial violated the Tam Tak-Chi’s rights to free speech and a fair trial.See the Fairness Report
The nine defendants in this case are all well-known pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong. On April 18, 2020, these nine individuals were arrested and charged with knowingly participating in and organising an unlawful assembly in violation of the Public Order Ordinance.See the Fairness Report
Journalist Bao Choy, a freelance producer with Radio Television Hong Kong, was charged with making false statements to access a public database. Bao Choy requested vehicle registration information as part of her investigation into an attack on pro-democracy protesters.See the Fairness Report
The trial of Tong Ying-kit, the first trial under the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong, undermined Tong Ying-kit’s fair trial and other human rights.See the Fairness Report