Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members of the now-defunct tabloid Apple Daily will face an addition charge over alleged seditious publications as part of their trial under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
The prosecution imposed the additional charged on Tuesday, as the group appeared in front of Acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. They stand accused of conspiring to collude with foreign powers under the city’s sweeping security legislation.
The defendants also included former CEO of Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily, Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily’s former editor-in-chief Ryan Law, former associate publisher Chan Pui-man, former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, ex-editor-in-chief of the English news section Fung Wai-kong, and ex-editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee.
According to the additional charge, the group are now also accused of conspiring, along with Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited, to “print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications.”
The seven defendants were accused of doing so with the intention “to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Central Authorities,” the Hong Kong government or “administration of justice in Hong Kong,” “to excite inhabitants of Hong Kong to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than lawful means, of any other matter in Hong Kong as by law established,” “to raise discontent disaffection amongst inhabitants of Hong Kong,” to incite violence, or “to counsel disobedience to law or to any lawful order.”
The case was adjourned to February 24, 2022 as some defendants needed more time to decide on their pleas, and the court is expected to deal with the prosecution’s application to transfer the case to the High Court, where the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
All defendants were remanded in custody as no bail applications were submitted.
Law also set another court date for a mention for the three companies on February 10, 2022, after the High Court ordered in December that Next Digital must be wound up.
The public gallery was packed with people, some former Apple Daily employees, despite the Cold Weather Warning on Tuesday morning. Some people waved at the defendants as they stepped into the dock.
After the court proceedings were completed, people sitting in the public gallery stood up and shouted “hang in there” and “wear more clothes” towards the dock as the group stepped away.