Hong Kong student indicted for ‘seditious’ online remarks made in Japan

A Hong Kong woman was indicted on Thursday for publishing “seditious” comments online during her stay as a student in Japan.

Yuen Ching-ting, 23, was arrested in early March when she returned from Tokyo to Hong Kong to renew her identity card. When the case became public knowledge in April, it sent a chill through overseas Hong Kong communities as it demonstrated that overseas residents can be targets of the national security law, which was imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

According to the indictment by the city’s National Security Department, seen by Nikkei Asia on Friday, Yuen was charged under a colonial-era crimes ordinance with “doing an act or acts with seditious intention.”

The prosecutor claims that Yuen used language that causes “hatred or contempt” or may “excite disaffection” against the central government in Beijing and the local authorities in Hong Kong. The police said in April that her online posts included the phrases “Hong Kong independence,” “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” and “downfall to the Communist Party” in both Chinese and English.

The posts seem to have been written while she was in Japan and disseminated through her Facebook and Instagram pages. The national security law has an extraterritorial reach, where offenses committed outside Hong Kong are punishable. However, the ordinance against sedition applies only to acts conducted in Hong Kong.

The defendant raised the fundamental legal issues of jurisdiction and extraterritoriality during the Friday hearing. Also in question is the sedition ordinance’s statute of limitations, which is set at six months. Yuen’s lawyers say she made her final social media post more than one year ago, in May 2022.

However, the prosecutor claims that she posted online between Sept. 7, 2018, and March 8 of this year. The prosecutor also mentioned that the posts were accessible in Hong Kong, despite having been written in Japan.

The court is set to reconvene on July 4 and Aug. 2 to address these disputes and determine how to proceed with the case.

Read More