© Provided by The GuardianPhotograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters
An activist who was the first person to be charged with sedition in Hong Kong since 1997 has been denied bail before his trial for "uttering seditious words" and advocating for Hong Kong independence.
Prosecutors alleged that activist Tam Tak-chi used anti-police slogans as well as the common protest phrases "liberate Hong Kong" and "five demands, not one less" in January, and at street booths between March and July on seven occasions.
Under the Crimes Ordinance, uttering seditious words can result in fines of HK$5,000 and up to two years in prison for a first offence.
Tam is reportedly facing other charges, including incitement to take part in an unauthorised assembly, disorderly conduct in public, and refusing or wilfully neglecting to obey an order given by a police officer.
He was bailed after an arrest in January for the same alleged offence, and was arrested again earlier this month. The arresting officers were from the national security squad, because there was early suspicion he had violated the national security law, according to the police. However, he was instead accused under the Crimes Ordinance of sedition, a law that has not been used since Hong Kong was handed over by the UK to China 23 years ago. © Photograph: Tyrone Siu/ReutersPro-democracy activist Tam Tak-chi is moved along by police after confronting Hong Kong government supporters in April.
Tam's allegedly seditious utterances were meant to "bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the government of [Hong Kong], or to raise discontent or disaffection among inhabitants of Hong Kong, or to counsel disobedience to law or to any lawful order", the South China Morning Post quoted prosecutors as saying.
The slogans Tam is accused of using are illegal under the national security law imposed by Beijing, but authorities have said the law is not retrospectively applied to acts committed before 30 June this year.
Hong Kong police have arrested 25 people under the national security law, including the media mogul Jimmy Lai and the well-known pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow. Tong Ying-kit is the only person to have been charged and is on remand. The activist Andy Li, who was arrested on 10 August, was among those detained two weeks later by Chinese coastguards, accused of attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat. Those also arrested are on police bail, pending charges. Lai has also faced or is facing separate charges.
More than 10,000 people have been arrested in relation to the mass protests throughout 2019 and the beginning of 2020.