HK court quashes security case media ban

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Hong Kong’s High Court has overturned a reporting restriction for a landmark national security case involving a now-disbanded group that once held the city’s annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Trial Court Judge Alex Lee’s ruling lifts a lower-court magistrate’s reporting ban and will allow for the first time open reporting of pre-trial proceedings – known as trial hearings. incarceration – in a national security case in Hong Kong.

“The magistrate’s reasoning was totally at odds with the principles of open justice that govern the exercise of judicial power in the context of restricting access to or disclosure of court proceedings,” Lee wrote in a summary of the judgment. , adding the magistrate, Peter Law, had “error” in his decision.

Lee also said the court “rejected” a claim by Hong Kong’s justice secretary that lifting reporting restrictions would “go against the ultimate goal of delivering justice.”

It was unclear whether the Justice Department or the prosecution would appeal the judge’s ruling.

The case involves three former leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China – Chow Hang-tung, 37; Albert Ho, 70; and Lee Cheuk-yan, 65 – who are charged with inciting subversion of state power under China’s imposed national security law.

Since the trio were arrested last September, they have been denied bail, and so far nothing but basic details from numerous court hearings have been allowed to be reported.

Lee ordered the magistrate to remove the reporting restrictions at the next hearing, which is set for August 17.

Authorities say the Security Law – which punishes offenses such as subversion and collusion with foreign forces with possible life imprisonment – ​​is needed to restore stability to Hong Kong after long-running pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The law, which was introduced at the behest of Beijing, has been criticized by some Western governments as a tool of repression, with dozens of Democrats and activists arrested and major civil society groups shut down.

Chow, who is in jail on two unauthorized assembly charges, also faces a separate national security charge related to a refusal to disclose information to police about the Hong Kong Alliance.

The Alliance, which held annual vigils to commemorate those who died in the 1989 Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, disbanded last September after the arrest of its main leaders.

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