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The trial of editors of closed news sites in Hong Kong has begun WGN 720 Radio

HONG KONG (AP) — The sedition trial of two former editors-in-chief of a closed online media outlet began Monday in Hong Kong after being held without bail for 10 months.

Stand News editor-in-chief Chung Pui Kuen and acting editor-in-chief Patrick Lam were arrested last December during a crackdown on dissent following widespread anti-government protests in 2019.

Stand News was one of the last outspoken critical voices in the city after the closure of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, whose jailed founder Jimmy Lai faces conspiracy charges under the 2020 national security law.

Before opening statements, the judge heard arguments from both sides about which articles can be included in the indictment and whether it is necessary to prove that the defendants had seditious intentions.

Unlike Lai, Chung and Lam were charged under a colonial-era sedition law that has increasingly been used to suppress critical voices in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Hong Kong was a British colony until it returned to China in 1997.

Best Pencil (Hong Kong) Limited, the holding company of Stand News, faces the same charge of conspiracy to publish seditious material.

Sedition is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of HK$5,000 (about US$640) for the first offense and three years for subsequent ones. The trial is expected to last 20 days.

Stand News was shut down in December following arrests and a high-profile police raid on the office. More than 200 officers, armed with a warrant to seize relevant journalistic material under the National Security Act, were involved in the search. But the couple and the company have not been charged under the security law.

Several months earlier, police had raided Apple Daily’s offices and seized boxes of material and computer hard drives to aid in the paper’s investigation.

Hong Kong fell more than 60 places to 148th in the latest Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index released in May. The world media watchdog followed with the closure of two publications.


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