Hong Kong activist jailed for 40 months in sedition trial | Political news
Activist Tam Tak-chi was one of the defendants in the city’s first sedition trial since its handover to China in 1997.
Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and radio DJ Tam Tak-chi has been sentenced to 40 months in prison after being found guilty of seditious speeches and other crimes last month.
Tam is the first to be tried for sedition in Hong Kong since its handover to China in 1997, according to local media.
Rights groups say Wednesday’s verdict shows new limits on free speech in the former British colony.
“Tam’s harsh sentence illustrates the breakneck speed at which Hong Kong’s freedoms are being eroded. Once known as Asia’s capital of protest, Hong Kong now sentences people to years in prison simply for shouting slogans,” Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.
Tam, 50, was arrested in September 2020 by the National Security Police for “inciting hatred, disregarding the government and causing discontent and dissatisfaction among the people of Hong Kong” and “uttering seditious remarks at protests two months prior.
He allegedly used slogans such as “liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time” during protests between January and July 2020, according to the court ruling.
The slogan has been in use since 2016, but the Hong Kong government recently declared it and similar expressions illegal under new national security legislation because they challenge China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong.
Some of Tam’s alleged offenses predate the legislation, which was passed by Beijing on June 30, 2020.
Tam was found guilty of 11 out of 14 counts in March, including disorderly conduct, seditious remarks and calling an unauthorized assembly, according to the court’s ruling. He has also been in custody since his 2020 arrest, as defendants in national security cases are typically denied bail.
Known by his radio DJ moniker, Fast Beat, Tam has also run in several local elections over the years and is vice-president of the People Power political party.
He is just one of many Hong Kongers to find themselves charged under the city’s Sedition Ordinance, which dates back to the 1930s but had largely fallen into disuse by the 1970s.
Colonial law has recently been revived, alongside national security legislation, to prosecute opposition activists, journalists and politicians.
Sedition carries a maximum sentence of 24 months for a first offense and 36 months for subsequent offences, according to Hong Kong’s Crime Ordinance.
Earlier this month, police arrested veteran journalist Allan Au for “conspiracy to publish riotous material” and, in a separate incident, arrested six people under the law for cheering during a court verdict.
The Sedition Act has also been used recently to shut down pro-democracy news outlets like the online news site Stand News and the Apple Daily tabloid, two publications known for their criticism of the government and support for democracy. .