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#AceBreakingNews – UPDATE Hong Kong law defined by courts, gov’t advisor says, after 2 arrested over books police said were not illegal to own
Two men, aged 38 and 50, were suspected of possessing seditious publications on Monday. Local media reported that the publications were children’s books about sheep and wolves that were found to be seditious in a high-profile trial last year according to HKFP by Peter Lee13:12, 15 March 2023
Hong Kong law is defined by court decisions rather than people’s comments, a government advisor has said, after two people were arrested over alleged possession of seditious publications despite police saying it was not illegal to own the books in question. Three children’s books were found to be seditious by a Hong Kong court in a high-profile trial in 2022. Photo: Screenshot.
Two men, aged 38 and 50, were suspected of possessing seditious publications on Monday. Local media reported that the publications were children’s books about sheep and wolves that were found to be seditious in a high-profile trial last year.
On Wednesday, Ming Pao cited sources saying that the arrests were linked to copies of the books that were mailed from the UK to Hong Kong.
Five speech therapists were jailed for 19 months after being found guilty of conspiring to print, publish, distribute and display the children’s books with seditious intent. Two defendants later filed an appeal to challenge their conviction. The court has yet fixed a date for the hearing.
At a press conference held after the speech therapists’ arrests in July 2021, Senior Superintendent Steve Li of the police National Security Department urged parents to discard the books in question, but added: “I cannot see there will be any issues for mere possession.”
Senior counsel and government advisor Ronny Tong, however, told HKFP on Wednesday that “things that the police say, just like what I am saying, are not the law.”Ronny Tong. File photo: Lea Mok/HKFP
“Only the court’s decisions are the law,” Tong said, adding that the police were only making comments based on their experience of enforcing the law, just as he was giving opinions on the basis of his legal knowledge.
When asked if the arrests were appropriate when the initial court decision was being challenged in a pending appeal, Tong told HKFP that he could not directly comment on the case because of ongoing proceedings. He could, he said, discuss the principles of the sedition law.
Tong asked why people would have those books when “everyone knows these publications are seditious” after the court’s ruling.
The barrister said judges inferred defendants’ intentions from what they said and did, as well as from other surrounding evidence.
“Therefore, if you have done something to arouse suspicion that you are using seditious publications to violate the law, others may infer that you have a criminal intent,” he said.Steve Li, senior superintendent of the Police National Security Department, at a press conference in July 2021 explaining allegedly seditious children’s books. File photo: Hong Kong Police, via Facebook screenshot.
Similarly, he said if someone had a book containing the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” which has been ruled as pro-independence and secessionist, and thus criminalised under the national security law, “you have to bear responsibility.”
Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts and mandates up to life imprisonment. Those convicted under the sedition law – last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still a British colony – face a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
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