On Thursday, a pro-democratic Hong Kong radio host went on trial for sedition in the first use of the colonial-era law since the city’s handover to China. Tam Tak-chi is 48 years old and is among a growing number of activists charged with sedition. It is separate from the sweeping national security law that was imposed on Hong Kong last year.
Tam Tak-chi is best known as “Fast Beat.” Tam faced eight sedition charges for slogans he either uttered or wrote between January and July last year. Along with sedition charges, he also faced other charges including inciting an unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.
On Thursday, at the opening of his trial, prosecutors read out those slogans along with some pro-democracy speeches Tam gave, often littered with colorful Cantonese curse words. These slogans included “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, “Corrupt cops, all of your family go to hell”, “Disband Hong Kong police, delay no more” and “Down with the Communist Party of China”.
In Hong Kong, sedition is defined as any words that generate hatred, contempt, or disaffection towards the government or encourage disaffection among residents. Sedition was penned in 1938 by colonial ruler Britain and has been criticized as an anti-free speech law.
Sedition had had not been used for decades and was a largely forgotten relic, but China is currently rebuilding Hong Kong in its own authoritarian image and the newly created national security police unit has resurrected the sedition law. Sedition as a first offense carries up to two years in jail.
Five members of a pro-democracy Hong Kong union that published children’s books about sheep trying to hold back wolves from their village were arrested for sedition last week.