HONG KONG: A Hong Kong Internet radio host was denied bail on Wednesday (Feb 10) under Beijing’s new national security law – even though he has not been charged with an offence under the sweeping legislation.
The court’s decision illustrates how the presumption of bail for non-violent crimes – once a hallmark of Hong Kong’s common law legal system – is being swept away by the new national security law and expanded to include other offences.
Wan Yiu-sing, 52, was charged earlier this week with sedition, a colonial-era law, for the content of four online talk shows he hosted last year.
On Wednesday, he was remanded into custody ahead of his eventual trial after a judge decided his alleged sedition offences were a national security risk.
It comes a day after Hong Kong’s top court delivered a landmark judgment concerning bail for national security crimes.
On Tuesday, the Court of Final Appeal said the security law “creates such a specific exception to the general rule in favour of the grant of bail and imports a stringent threshold requirement for bail applications”.
The ruling also said offences outside the security law could also be considered national security risks where bail might be denied, offering treason, sedition and “incitement to disaffection” as examples.
The sedition charges against Wan are only the second time the colonial-era law has been used since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover to China.
Last year, another Internet radio host was also charged with sedition and remanded into custody.
Police and prosecutors are using an expanded suite of legal powers to pursue dissidents in Hong Kong following huge and often violent protests in 2019.
Beijing imposed its security law on Hong Kong last June, bypassing the legislature and keeping its contents secret until the moment it was enacted, arguing it was needed to restore stability.
It outlawed four new crimes: Secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion.
But the broad wording and application of the law has criminalised much dissent in the business hub and created a host of new speech crimes.