The Witness: Trial of 47 Hong Kong Democrats | 5 February 2023

Two trials of immense historical significance are currently taking place in Hong Kong, one dealing with forty-seven democrats who took part in an unofficial primary election in 11-12 July 2020, and one involving the editors of 立場新聞 Stand News, who have been accused of publishing “seditious” material on their on-line newspaper. In a very real sense, democracy and freedom of speech are on trial here, and what the gruelling court process will eventually reveal to us is exactly what lengths the Chinese will go to criminalize all aspects of political expression incompatible with dictatorship.

A YouTube channel called 法庭線 The Witness has been uploading clear, concise reports in Cantonese on both trials, and I have found them useful for making sense of what is going on. If you rely on the English-language media for your information, you may find that my rough translations of this material complement what appears on the Hong Kong Free Press website and elsewhere. If you do read Chinese, you may also find the detailed reports on the 獨立媒體 Inmedia website of great interest, especially with the verbatim transcriptions of various comments made by judges, legal representatives and the defendants. To date, to my surprise, there have been many moments of laughter during the trial of the forty-seven democrats, and some intriguing quibbles over the translation of certain words and phrases offered by the official legal interpreter.

You can watch the video here (subtitles in Standard Written Chinese only).

2020年民主派初選 | 四十七名民主派人士 | 其後被控「串謀顛覆國家政權罪」

Caption: 16 名不認罪被告

十六個唔認罪嘅被告即將受審 | 將會係涉及 | 「串謀顛覆國家政權罪嘅 | 首場審訊 | 根據《國安法》| 一旦罪成 | 刑罰按參與程度分三級

Caption: 首要分子:判囚10年以上至終身監禁 | 積極參加:判囚3至10年 | 其他參加:判囚 3 年以下或禁閉刑罰

最嚴重嘅 | 可以判囚十年以上至到終身監禁 | 案件不設陪審團 | 由高院《國安法》指定法官 | 陳慶偉、陳仲衡、李運騰審理 | 預計審期大概九十日 | 控方早前話 | 呈堂證物包括初選論壇片段 | 被告競選宣傳片 | 又透露有其中三個被告 | 將會以「共犯證人」嘅身份作供

● 其後 keih4 hauh6 = later | ● 受審 sauh6 sam2 = to stand trial; to be tried; to be on trial | ● 涉及 sip3 kahp6 = to involve; to relate to | ● 審訊 sam2 seun3 = to interrogate; to try | ● 罪成 jeuih6 sihng4 = (?) to establish a person’s guilt | ● 刑罰 yihng4 faht6 = a penalty; a punishment | ● 參與 cham1 yuh5 = to participate in; to have a hand in | ● 首要分子 sau2 yiu3 fan1 ji2 = major culprit; ringleader | ● 判囚 pun3 chauh4 = (?) to be sentenced to prison | ● 禁閉刑罰 gam3 baih6 yihng4 faht6 = (?) “confinement penalty” | ● 陪審團 puih4 sam2 tyuhn4 = jury | ● 指定 ji2 dihng6 = to designate | ● 審理 sam2 leih5 = to try; to hear | ● 預計 yuh6 gai3 = to anticipate; to predict| ● 審期 sam2 keih4 = roughly, “the trial period” | ● 呈堂chihng4 tohng4 = ? cf. 呈堂證供 = sworn evidence | ● 證物 jing3 maht6 = evidence | ● 論壇 leuhn6 taahn4 = forum | ● 競選 gihng6 syun2 = to enter into an election contest; to campaign for (office); to run for| ● 宣傳片syun1 chyuhn4 pin3*2 = roughly, “publicity/promotional video”| ● 透露 tau3 lauh6 = to divulge; to leak; to disclose; to reveal

2020 Democrats’ Primary Elections | 47 Democratic Figures | Later Accused of the Crime of Conspiring to Subvert State Power

Caption: The 16 Defendants who Pleaded Not Guilty

The sixteen defendants who pleaded not guilty are about to stand trial. This will be the first trial related to the crime of conspiring to subvert state power. According to the National Security Law, once guilt is established [一旦罪成], there are three levels of punishment depending on the degree of involvement [參與程度].

Caption: [For] a major culprit or ringleader: more than 10 years or up to a lifetime’s imprisonment | [For] an active participant: 3 to 10 years imprisonment | [For] other participants: less than 3 years imprisonment or confinement [禁閉刑罰]

In the most serious [cases], one can be sentenced to more than 10 years or up to a lifetime’s imprisonment. There is no jury for this trial. It will be heard by three high court judges designated by the National Security Law: Andrew Chan Hing-wai, Johnny Chan Jong-herng and Alex Lee Wan-tang. The trial is expected to last for approximately 90 days. The prosecution earlier indicated that video footage of the primary election forums and promotional videos from individuals contesting the election will be used as evidence. They also revealed that three of the defendants who pleaded guilty will give evidence as accomplice witnesses.

【1:00】至於三十一個認罪被告 | 將會喺唔認罪被告嘅審訊之後 | 先至判刑 | 案中四十七人 | 由被捕、到開審 | 歷時超過兩年

Caption: 各人FB片段

2021年1月 | 警方國安處拘捕 | 五十五名民主派人士 | 喺《國安法》實施以嚟 | 拘捕人數最多嘅案件 | 佢哋之後獲准保釋 | 唔夠兩個月 | 收到警方國安處通知 | 要提早去到警署報到 | 最後有四十七人被落案起訴「串謀顛覆國家政權罪」| 經過大概四十個鐘、橫跨四日嘅「馬拉松式」保釋申請 | 《國安法》指定法官 | 總裁判官蘇惠德 | 批准十五個人保釋 | 律政司隨即提出覆核 | 裁判官需要依例將全部人收押

● 判刑 pun3 yihng4 = to sentence | ● 被捕 beih6 bouh6 = be under arrest| ● 開審 hoi1 sam2 = to hold a court hearing | ● 歷時 lihk6 sih4 = to last (a period of time); to take (a period of time) | ● 拘捕 keui1 bouh6 = to arrest | ● 案件 [ng]on3 gin6*2 = a case | ● 獲准保釋 wohk6 jeun2 bou2 sik1 = roughly, “to secure approval to be bailed” | ● 警署 jing2 chyuh5 = police station | ● 落案 lohk6 [ng]on3 = to lay a charge against | ● 總裁判官 jung2 choih4 pun3 gun1 = chief magistrate | ● 律政司 leuht6 jing3 si1 = the Department of Justice | ● 隨即 cheuih4 jik1 = immediately; presently | ● 覆核 fuk1 haht6 = to check | ● 依例 yi1 laih6 = (?) in compliance with the rules | ● 收押 sau1 ngaat3 = to detain

As for the thirty-one defendants who have pleaded guilty, they will not be sentenced until after those who pleaded not guilty have been tried. For the forty-seven people in the case, it has been more that two years from the time of their arrest to the holding of the court hearing.

Caption: [Video] clips from various individuals’ Facebook pages

In January 2021, the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force arrested fifty-five democrats. It is the case with the largest number of arrests since the implementation of the National Security Law. They were afterwards granted bail, but within less than two months, they were notified by the National Security Department that they were required to report earlier than expected to [their nearest] police station. After that, forty-seven people were charged, accused [起訴] of the crime of conspiring to subvert state power. After a marathon hearing for applications for bail lasting around forty hours [held] over four days, Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, a judge designated by the National Security Law, approved fifteen applications. The Department of Justice immediately asked for a review [提出覆核]. [In compliance with the rules] the magistrate had to keep everyone in detention.

【2:00】一日之後 | 律政司撤銷覆核 | 其中四個人嘅保釋申請 | (感謝你們)| 其餘十一個人 | 高院指定法官杜麗冰審視之後 | 批准其中七個人保釋 | 之後再有還押被告 | 先後向高院申請保釋獲批

Caption: 13 人獲准保釋

去到開審之前 | 四十七人當中 | 一共有十三個人保釋緊 | 佢哋獲准保釋之前 | 曾經分別還押一日 . . . | 去到二百九十二日 | 另外三十四人正喺還押 | 其中余慧明同鄒家成 | 一度獲准保釋 | 其後被指違反保釋條件 | 撤銷擔保 | 已經還押出唔多五百日 | 戴耀廷、區諾軒、趙家賢等三十二個人 | 就已經還押超過七百日

● 撤銷 chit3 siu1 = to cancel; to revoke | ● 審視 sam2 sih6 = to examine | ● 獲批 wohk6 pai1 = (?) to be approved | ● 被指 beih6 ji2 = (?) to be accused of | ● 違反 waih4 faan2 = to violate; to infringe | ● 擔保 daam1 bou2 = to guarantee; to vouch for; to assure; to ensure

One day later, the Department of Justice cancel [its request for] a review of four of the people who applied for bail. The remaining eleven people were examined by the High Court designated judge Esther Toh Lye-ping. She approved bail for seven of them. Later, the defendants who remained in detention successfully applied for bail to the High Court.

Caption: Thirteen people are granted bail

Up until the trial began, of the forty-seven people, a total of thirteen of them have been on bail. Before they were granted bail, there were those who were detained for one day, and those who had been detained for 292 days. The other thirty-four people are still in detention. Of these, Winnie Yu Wai-ming and Owen Chow Ka-shing were granted bail for a time, but were later accused of violating their bail conditions. Their bail [擔保] was revoked. They have been in detention for nearly 500 days. The thirty-two other people, [including] Benny Tai Yiu-ming, Au Nok-hin and Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, have already been in detention for more than 700 days.

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