Opposition activist Tam Tak-chi, the first person to be charged with sedition since Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, has been remanded in custody after a court was told he issued calls for the city’s liberation and disbanding of its police force.
The leading figure of localist group People Power faced on Tuesday five counts of uttering seditious words, and another of disorderly conduct in public, over allegations the 48-year-old stirred up hatred against the government and police by chanting slogans widely shared by anti-government protesters during last year’s social unrest.
The sedition charges stated Tam – whose bail application was rejected by Fanling Magistrates’ Court – made speeches on five occasions in as many places in Kowloon between March 15 and July 19, according to the prosecution’s filing.
Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang said the seditious remarks made by Tam included chanting “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “Five demands, not one less”, both of which emerged last year as rallying calls for the demonstrations sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
His other chants targeted police, including “Rogue cops and their families go to hell”, “Disband the police force”, and another criticising officers’ handling of the protests, Chau said.
The sixth count referred to Tam using “threatening, abusive or insulting words” with intent to provoke a breach of the peace outside a shopping centre in Ngau Tau Kok on March 15.
Chau said the seditious remarks were uttered with intent to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or to raise discontent or disaffection amongst inhabitants of Hong Kong, or to counsel disobedience to law or to any lawful order”.
“After the commencement of the national security law, the defendant set up street booths frequently, with intent to incite the general public to chant these political slogans and hold the Hong Kong and Chinese governments in contempt,” Chau told Principal Magistrate Don So Man-lung.
Chau said that ahead of the next hearing, police would trawl through more than 12 hours of video footage allegedly showing Tam committing similar offences when he set up more than 20 street counters from June to August.
So denied Tam bail following objections from prosecutors. Tam, who can renew his bail application in the High Court, was arrested on Sunday and appeared before So on Tuesday afternoon, after spending more than 48 hours in police custody.
Although Tam was arrested by police’s national security unit, he was not charged under the new Beijing-decreed legislation, which targets acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Instead, he was accused of sedition under Section 10 of the Crimes Ordinance. Under that colonial-era law, anyone who utters seditious words can be fined HK$5,000 (US$645) and jailed for two years for a first offence.
The offence of acting disorderly in public places carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a HK$5,000 fine, according to the Public Order Ordinance.
The court also heard on Tuesday an incitement charge pressed against Tam two months ago, after he was accused of mobilising people to take part in a banned procession on Hong Kong Island on January 19, an offence carrying a maximum jail sentence of five years.
The prosecution also laid two additional charges in that case – uttering seditious words and disorderly conduct in public.
Chau said Tam had made seditious comments at a park in Tai Po on January 17, and shouted abuse at police to cause a disturbance outside the Sogo department store in Causeway Bay two days later.
The next hearing for both cases is scheduled for November 17.
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