A Hong Kong internet radio host charged with sedition was denied bail by a court on Wednesday for lack of evidence that guarantees that he will not “re-offend” once released from custody.
Wan Yiu-sing, was arrested on suspicion of “seditious intent”, a relic of British colonial-era law over comments he made during online radio shows he hosted from August to October 2020.
Seditious intent under the Crimes Ordinance is defined as “intent to arouse hatred or contempt of the Hong Kong [government]or to incite rebellion, and cause dissatisfaction with it.”
The West Kowloon Magistracy said there was a risk to “national security” if Wan were to be released although his case doesn’t fall under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing since July last year.
Wan’s wife and daughter wept openly in court when the decision was read out, with his daughter shouting out “Dad!”
The prosecution had earlier drawn comparisons with the denial of bail on Tuesday to pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who has been charged with “collusion with a foreign power” under the national security law.
Wan’s arrest came amid a city-wide crackdown on public criticism of the Hong Kong authorities and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the wake of a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020.
Wan had been out on bail following an earlier arrest in November 2020 on suspicion of offering financial support to alleged pro-independence activities.
The Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the decision meant a “de facto three-month jail sentence” for Wan.
“[RSF] demands his release and calls on #HongKong government to stop the #judicialpersecution of #pressfreedom defenders,” the group said via its Twitter account.
The denial of bail to Wan came amid reports that the Hong Kong government will move to abolish jury trials in cases brought under the national security law, in a potential break with 176 years of juridical practice under Hong Kong’s common law system.
AFP reported on Monday that Hong Kong justice secretary Teresa Cheng had informed defence lawyers representing Tong Ying-kit, a 23-year old man arrested the day after the law came in to effect for allegedly driving his motorbike into a crowd of police officers while flying a protest flag, that no jury would be present at his trial.
Instead the trial will be heard by three judges who have been appointed to try national security cases, Cheng reportedly told the lawyers.
Tong faces charges of “terrorism” and “inciting secession” under the new law, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment when asked by AFP for comment because case proceedings are on-going.
Trial by jury is described by the Hong Kong justice department as one of the judiciary’s “most important features.” (Source: RFA)