A paralegal charged alongside Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying with breaking the national security law took police to court on Tuesday over what he said was the unlawful seizure of personal property after his arrest.
In the legal action, which commenced on Monday, Chan Tsz-wah asked the High Court to order police to return materials that were wrongfully taken from his house in Tai Po, including sensitive articles that were under the protection of legal professional privilege.
The 29-year-old paralegal, who worked at an unnamed international law firm, also sought damages “for the trespass to, and/or conversion and/or detinue of” the seized possessions, the nature of which were not specified in the writ.
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Chan became the fifth person prosecuted under the Beijing-imposed legislation last Wednesday, accused of conspiring with others to request that foreign countries impose sanctions or a blockade, or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or mainland China.
Lai, founder of Next Digital and the tabloid-style Apple Daily newspaper, his right-hand man Mark Simon, and activists Andy Li Yu-hin and Lau Cho-dick are alleged to have been involved in the same plot.
Chan was also charged under the city’s Criminal Procedure Ordinance for allegedly helping Li flee to Taiwan last summer, before he was caught alongside 11 other fugitives in mainland waters.
Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, one of the judges hand-picked by city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to oversee national security proceedings, remanded Chan in custody and scheduled the next hearing for April 14.
Police arrested Chan at his residence in She Shan Tsuen in a low-profile operation on February 15, and conducted a search at his house pursuant to a warrant. The police action was only made public the next day after the force announced their decision to charge the legal assistant.
Chan’s lawyers feared police might have assumed possession of materials that could reveal their confidential conversations with a client.
Similar legal actions have been mounted against police by Lai, Apple Daily and senior executives of Next Digital, after police raided the company’s Tseung Kwan O premises on August 10. Lai and nine others were arrested over allegations of colluding with foreign forces or committing commercial fraud.