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Press FreedomHong Kong

Hong Kong: Journalists' sedition trial opens

October 31, 2022

Patrick Lam and Chung Pui-Kuen are being tried under a little-used colonial era law for sedition and inciting hatred. The pair were editors at Stand News, known for its protest coverage.

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Patrick Lam being arrested in Hong Kong
Patrick Lam (center) has been in pre-trial detention for almost 10 monthsImage: Vincent Yu/AP/picture alliance

Two former editors of Stand News in Hong Kong went on trial Monday for sedition as the island's Beijing-backed government continues its crackdown on independent media.

Patrick Lam, 34, and Chung Pui-kuen, 52, were arrested late last year. They have been charged alongside Stand News' parent company Best Pencil Limited for "conspiracy to publish and reproduce seditious publications."

The pair, who are also charged with "inciting hatred" have pleaded not guilty. They face up to two years in prison if convicted.

The presiding judge is  Kwok Wai-kin, who was handpicked by the government to try national security cases.

What is Stand News?

Stand News was known for its reliable coverage of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the resulting suppression from the security services.

Around the time Lam and Chung were arrested, police raided Stand News' offices and froze HK$61 million (US$7.8 million) of the company's assets.

The company was forced to shut down and has since deleted all of its content.

Hong Kong's media under pressure

Hong Kong slides dramatically in press freedom rankings

Hong Kong's sedition laws are a relic of British rule and were rarely used after the 1960s until mainland China ramped up its clampdown on the media in the international business hub.

According to the 2022 Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings, Hong Kong is ranked at 148 in the world in terms of press freedom. This puts the island in between the Philippines and Turkey, which have also seen widespread repression of independent media in recent years.

When the report was first published in 2002, Hong Kong ranked 18th.

Executives from Apple Daily, another independent media organization that has been forced to close, are set to go on trial in January on similar charges. Those indicted include entrepeneur Jimmy Lai, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party.

es/ar (AP, AFP)