A Hong Kong magistrate has ordered a 13-month jail sentence for a Protestant pastor accused of committing sedition while attending a court hearing against a political activist.
Details of the Case
Based on a report by UCA News, West Kowloon Court Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi on Oct. 27 sentenced Pastor Garry Pang Moon-yuen to three months in jail for seditious speech and 10 months for sedition.
With the verdict, Pastor Pang became the first Christian clergy to receive a jail sentence on sedition charges since the enactment of the national security law.
Despite his looming imprisonment, the Christian pastor nonetheless claimed victory in his case since he succeeded in "safeguarding conscience, defending freedoms, human rights, and rule of law." The embattled clergy also told reporters that 'history would declare him innocent' of the sedition charge.
The news outlet disclosed that Pastor Pang posted several live streams and videos on his YouTube channel during the Jan. 4 trial of activist Chow hang-tung.
The pastor reportedly blasted Magistrate Amy Chan for her 'threats to silence people' when she ordered the removal of two court attendees who clapped during the activist's court hearing.
Magistrate Cheng argued that Pang slandered Magistrate Chan and "selectively interpreted" what occurred in the trial proceedings in his YouTube posts. Pastor Pang publicly acknowledged telling Magistrate Chan that she 'had lost her conscience' during the Jan. 4 trial.
Additionally, Magistrate Cheng claimed that the pastor had issued statements critical of the court without a solid basis. Cheng added that Pang allegedly posed unverified claims as facts in his YouTube videos.
Crackdown on Political Dissenters?
Aside from Pastor Pang, the Hong Kong court also ordered the arrest and conviction of Chiu Mei-ying on a sedition charge.
Chiu, a housewife, reportedly clapped during the sentencing trial of activist Chow who was accused of sedition, when he urged people to attend a vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The report said Chiu also criticized Magistrate Chan during the hearing.
The two convictions ultimately led some Hong Kong residents to refrain from posting comments on social media with the slightest tinge of government criticism for fear of similar repercussions.
During his September trial, Pastor pang warned: "What's going on in the court right now is not only a legal battle over sedition but also a battle to defend human rights and freedoms, a battle of safeguarding conscience."
Pang also said that Hong Kong residents who express their desire to have changes in the country's legal system should not be jailed for sedition. If so, Pang argued that Hong Kong's "rule of law" would eventually erode.
According to the International Christian Concern, a Hongkong-based Catholic clergy told them about the growing fear among Hong Kong residents of possible sedition charges should they post or voice out their criticism of the government.
"While Pang's case might have been widely discussed online before NSL, now there is little discussion about him," The Christian Post quoted ICC saying.
The news outlet added that Pastor Pang's jail sentencing came a few days after the Vatican-China renewal of the agreement concerning the appointment of Catholic bishops stationed in China. It said the communist country is not slowing down on imposing religious freedom restrictions despite the agreement with the Vatican.