A Hong Kong court has sentenced a former radio DJ and political party official to 40 months in jail for seditious verbal crimes.
Tam Tak-chi, also known as Fast Beat, was fined $5,000 after he was found guilty of 11 of 14 charges against him last month, including seven counts of disorderly conduct in public and one of conspiracy to utter seditious words. Since the crackdown began in Hong Kong in 1997, Tam was the first person charged with sedition under a colonial-era law that authorities in the territory have used with increasing frequency since the crackdown began on pro-democracy protesters and supporters. The anti-sedition law is separate from the national security law introduced in 2019 that criminalizes acts such as sedition, secession, and foreign collusion.
The 50-year-old former vice-chair of the People Power party has been in jail since his September 2020 arrest. He had been arrested on a similar accusation in January and released on bail.
Prosecutors alleged that the activist used anti-police slogans as well as phrases commonly heard at the protests in 2019: liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times and five demands, not one less on multiple occasions. His trial saw the prosecution and defense debate the meaning of liberate and revolution throughout Chinese history.
The liberate phrase could be used in a court trial of the first person charged under the national security law, but the court ruled it could be used to incite others to commit secessionist activities.
Stanley Chan, a national security judge picked by Hong Kong s government, sentenced Tam to a total of 54 months for the various charges including two years for incitement to take part in an unauthorised assembly but ruled several be served concurrently, reducing the total imprisonment to 40 months.
Chan said he found no mitigating factors and accused Tam of grandstanding and having a subjective wish to stand for and win the then-planned legislative election. Tam is among 47 campaigners, activists, and politicians who were arrested and detained over a pre-election primary. The electoral system was overhauled to make it hard for opposition camps to win, and the democratic caucus resigned in protest.
Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch's senior China researcher, said that Tam's sentence exemplifies the dizzying speed at which Hong Kong s freedoms are being eroded Once known as Asia's protest capital, Hong Kong is now sending people to years in prison for shouting slogans.