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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

'Co-conspirators rule' sought

Former legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting and ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin had formed a "conspiracy" to subvert the Chinese regime by organizing the Legislative Council primary election in 2020, three national security judges heard yesterday.
Deputy director of public prosecutions Jonathan Man Tak-ho told Justices Andrew Cham Hing-wai, Alex Lee Wan-tang and Johnny Chan Jong-herng at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts that the prosecution is accusing 16 pro-democracy heavyweights pleading not guilty by "co-conspirators rule."

Tai, a cofounder of the 2014 Occupy Central Movement, and Au have both pleaded guilty to conspiracy for subversion. Au is also a prosecution witness.

Man told the court that the two agreed on the "conspiracy" on February 15, 2020.

Although most of the defendants did not join the "conspiracy," they could still be prosecuted under the "co-conspirators rule."

That means statements made by the two outside court could be admitted as evidence against all defendants in the trial.

Man submitted a 25-page document listing the other defendants' behavior and speeches to prove their involvement in the conspiracy.

The first piece of evidence was an article published on February 15, 2020 titled "The last puzzle to grabbing half of Legco. All we need is for small and medium enterprises to do this!" It was not mentioned in court who wrote it.

Barrister Erik Shum Sze-man, representing ex-Democratic Party lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Helena Wong Pik-wan, questioned the coverage of the evidence being "too wide."

He said some evidence referred to events before the defendants allegedly joined the conspiracy.

"I hope the prosecution can narrow the scope," Shum said.

Justice Lee reminded barristers that the national security law - implemented on June 30, 2020 - was not in effect when the "conspiracy" was formed and such "conspiracy" was not illegal then. As to whether the "co-conspirators rule" is applicable, Lee said both sides can debate on this later.

He also reminded the lawyers that some of the evidence mentioned in the document have not been tabled to the court and cannot be used for examination or cross examination.

The judges adjourned the hearing to tomorrow to give the defense time to study the document and seek instructions from their clients.

Au is expected to continue his testimony tomorrow.
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