Six former staff of infamous Apple Daily to plead guilty; 'little time left' for diehard secessionists like Jimmy Lai
By Chen Qingqing Published: Aug 22, 2022 09:31 PM
Six former employees of Hong Kong's secessionist media Apple Daily are going to plead guilty on the charge of violating the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong, according to the court's hearing on Monday. They faced charges of colluding with foreign forces to jeopardize national security, as well as printing, publishing, distributing, displaying, or copying inflammatory publications.
Apple Daily's founder Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty. Legal experts said the judges may take consideration with evidence admitted and other circumstances such as facts determined when dealing with Lai's case, and some experts believe that there's little time left for Lai and other diehard secessionists.
Six defendants who will plead guilty include the former editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong, publisher Cheung Kim-hung, executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, associate publisher Chan Pui-man and editorial writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee.
The latest guilty plea came after dozens of former local politicians and extreme separatist activists in other sectors involved in the infamous "35-plus" political strategy in 2020, including former legal professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and secessionist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, pleaded guilty of "conspiring to subvert state power" on Thursday, delivering a strong message of deterrence to those who intend to endanger national security.
Those defendants must have been served with the prosecution's brief which enclosed ample evidence that demonstrated how guilty they were so after legal advice and careful thoughts, and they must have considered that they have no defense to the charge so they decided to plead guilty, Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Monday.
Their guilty plea will significantly cut down the number of trial dates set down as the prosecution will not need to adduce evidence against those defendants at trial, Ma said.
Three designated judges who handled the case called for an open hearing and lifted statutory curbs on media coverage, and prosecutors alleged that the defendants had sought foreign sanctions or hostile actions by foreign governments against Hong Kong or the Chinese mainland, since July 1, 2020 - the day after the NSL for Hong Kong took effect until the closure of the tabloid on June 24, 2021, the South China Morning Post reported.
In the past, Apple Daily had attained a low credibility worldwide and was infamous for their seditious publication and seditious words, brewing disaffection and hatred toward the central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, and the core members were accountable for what they had done over the years, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran affairs commentator and a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Monday.
"This has nothing to do with freedom of press or freedom of speech," Chu said, noting that everyone is equal in the presence of law and the rule of law is exercised in Hong Kong thoroughly without intervention.
The judges may take consideration with evidence admitted and other circumstances such as facts determined when dealing with Lai's case, Chu said.
The six defendants would be sentenced in a separate case and the date of the case has not been fixed yet, according to media reports.
The six former employees pleading guilty signals that the NSL for Hong Kong indeed brings order to the city and clarifies the matter and facts, showing to the world that the NSL for Hong Kong serves as complementary to the rule of law in Hong Kong, Louis Chen, member of the Election Committee and general secretary of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Monday.
"Although their guilty plea may not be sincere, it's certain that under the NSL for Hong Kong, there's little time left for the diehard anti-China rioters like Lai," Chen said.
There are in total 12 defendants related to Lai's two cases, and except Lai and three companies involved, the rest eight defendants all planned to plead guilty. Two anti-China figures Andy Li Yu-hin and Chan Tsz-wah, who were charged with "conspiracy to commit subversion by collusion with foreign elements" in Lai's case, already pleaded guilty.
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