'No Right to Jury Trial,' Hong Kong Prosecutors Tell Judicial Review

Residents of Hong Kong have ‘no right to jury trial’ under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the city’s department of justice said on Monday.

Prosecutors bringing charges of “terrorism” and “inciting secession” against 24-year-old Tong Ying-kit after he flew a protest flag on the day the law took effect said that defendants in Hong Kong do not have a constitutional or fundamental right to trial by jury.

Speaking at a judicial review hearing brought by Tong’s defense team, prosecutors said there will be no jury trial for Tong, amid accusations of procedural unfairness in the conduct of Tong’s case.

Senior Counsel Philip Dykes had argued that the decision to deny Tong a jury trial was unconstitutional under the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Article 86 of the Basic Law states that “the principle of trial by jury previously practised in Hong Kong shall be maintained” after the 1997 handover to China.

“Trial by jury helps ensure the independence and quality of judges… by ensuring that they, and not judges appointed by the executive, actually deliver a verdict in a prosecution started by the government,” Dykes told the court.

“Trials by a body might afford a defendant some protection against laws which they find harsh or oppressive,” he said.

‘Subversion’ charges for primary election

The national security law, which saw China’s feared state security police set up a headquarters in Hong Kong to oversee “serious” cases, has been widely criticized by governments, rights groups and lawyers as an assault on Hong Kong’s traditional freedoms of speech, association and political participation.

In December, 27 opposition politicians and democracy activists were arrested for “subversion” under the law after they held a democratic primary designed to maximize their chances of winning seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The authorities responded by postponing the election and arresting those who took part in the primary.

One of those arrested, Andrew Wan, resigned from his seat on the District Council on Monday.

“Besides the security charge, I also face nine other charges which the authorities abusively slapped on me,” Wan said via social media. “And the fact that I’m on remand, there’s really no way to continue to serve as a councilor.”

At least 15 other district councilors have resigned in recent months for a variety of reasons, some in protest over an oath of loyalty to the CCP, and others in protest at the ever-widening assault on peaceful protest and political participation under the new law.

LegCo is expected to pass a bill on Wednesday setting out what it means to “uphold the Basic Law” and to “pledge allegiance to the SAR,” key phrases used by Chinese and Hong Kong officials to denote loyalty to Beijing, government broadcaster RTHK reported on Monday.

Those who fail to meet the requirements will be removed from public office.

Tiananmen Mothers memorial nixed

Meanwhile, members of the Hong Kong Alliance for the Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China gathered signatures in Mong Kok on Sunday, calling on members to the public to show solidarity with the Tiananmen Mothers’ victims’ group, vowing to go ahead with an annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4.

Alliance vice chair Chow Hang-tung said the group had lodged an application with the police to hold the rally, and had not yet received a reply.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which administers the football pitches where the rally usually takes place, has said it’s not taking bookings for the dates in question, citing coronavirus concerns.

Chow’s move came after the District Court handed jail terms to jailed democracy activist Joshua Wong and three opposition members of the city’s District Council for attending last year’s vigil in defiance of a police ban.

Wong was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment on May 6, while district councilor Lester Shum was jailed for six months. Fellow councilors Tiffany Yuen and Jannelle Leung were each handed four-month sentence.

All four had pleaded guilty to taking part in last year’s candlelight vigil, which was attended by thousands of people in Victoria Park despite a ban by the authorities, ostensibly to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

Wong, Shum, and Yuen also stand accused of breaking the national security law after they took part in the democratic primary.

Reported by Gigi Lee, Lee Tak On and Chan Yun Nam for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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