The legal proceedings surrounding various political prosecutions of major Hong Kong activists continue, with updates in the appeal of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund’s trustees’ convictions, the prosecution of Jimmy Lai, and the legal cases surrounding the banning of Hong Kong’s Tiananmen candlelight vigils. The legal dispute surrounding the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund—a nonprofit fund that provided financial support to pro-democracy protestors—continues following the November convictions of Cardinal Joseph Zen, singer-activist Denise Ho, scholar Hui Po Keung, NGO worker Sze Ching-wee, and former Legislative Councilors Cyd Ho and Margaret Ng on charges related to the charity’s registration. Joseph Zen, Margaret Ng, Cyd, Ho, Hui Po-keung, and Denise Ho have filed an appeal against their conviction with the High Court in mid-December.
Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, facing a wide range of legal issues with the Hong Kong government, was convicted in December 2022 of fraud. Lai faces a nearly 6-year sentence and a fine of over $2 million HKD. The pending national security case against Jimmy Lai continues to proceed slowly, following a months-long appeal by Lai’s legal team to use a UK lawyer, Tim Owen KC, as Lai’s lead counsel in the national security trial. On December 30th, following an appeal by the Hong Kong government, the mainland Chinese National People’s Congress stepped in to rule against Lai, giving Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee the ability to bar foreign lawyers from representing defendants in national security cases.
In mid-December, the lawyer and human rights activist Chow Hang-tung, convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison for her role in organizing a 2021 candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, won her appeal against the conviction. The Hong Kong government has expressed interest in appealing the case to restore Chow’s conviction. Despite Chow’s victory in the appeal, she remains in detention, facing two additional legal cases under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.
Political prosecutions in Hong Kong continue, with the government holding fast in its efforts to bring Hong Kong’s legal system to bear against major activists. The use of a range of laws—nonprofit registration ordinances, real estate regulations, national security legislation—against targets of political prosecutions demonstrates some of the issues exposed by HKDC’s Political Prisoner Database, which shows the diversity of charges levied against Hong Kong’s 1,325 political prisoners. The rule-of-law situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating as well; as seen in Jimmy Lai’s case, the Hong Kong government has increasingly involved mainland Chinese authorities in Hong Kong’s legal system, further eroding protections for basic legal and procedural rights. The expansiveness of the National Security Law continues to threaten civil liberties in Hong Kong: while activists such as Chow Hang-tung may occasionally win legal victories, the breadth of possible offenses under the National Security Law allows Hong Kong authorities to ensure activists will remain imprisoned by entangling them in a variety of national security-related charges.