An evangelical pastor has become the first Christian clergyman to be convicted of sedition in Hong Kong since the communist regime in Beijing erased freedoms there, forcing the city to institute a sweeping national security law two years ago.
Pastor Garry Pang Moon-yuen, 59, was convicted of clapping in court and criticizing a verdict against a democracy activist, according to multiple media outlets.
Pang received a sentence of 10 months for sedition and three months for seditious speech from the West Kowloon Court on Oct. 27, according to Agence France Presse (AFP)
According to UCA News, Pang told the court he would respect the magistrate's ruling. However, Pang said he was still victorious in terms of "safeguarding conscience, defending freedoms, human rights, and rule of law," while adding that "history would acquit him."
He was arrested for comments he made during the hearing of activist Chow Hang-tung on Jan. 4, which was related to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, and videos and live streams on his YouTube channel, according to the outlet.
"Pang not only openly admitted he clapped, he also criticized the magistrate of being conscienceless ... which incited others to despise the judiciary," magistrate Cheng claimed, according to the local publication The Witness which covers Hong Kong courts.
During his trial last month, Pang said, "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," according to UCA News.
In addition, Cheng sentenced Chiu Mei-Ying, 68, a housewife, to three months in jail for her "seditious" remarks, the outlet reported. Both Pang and Chiu had regularly attended activists' trials, media outlets reported.
The judge said the pair, Pang and Chiu, knowingly and intentionally made remarks that were "seditious," bringing hatred and contempt against the so-called administration of justice.
More than 200 people – the bulk of them activists, former elected lawmakers, unionists, and journalists – have been arrested on national security charges since mid-2020, according to AFP. About one-fifth of those arrested have been hit with charges of sedition, which is treated as a national security crime.
As CBN News reported in 2021, thousands of legal immigrants fled Hong Kong's Chinese communist crackdown that took away the freedom of speech and religious liberties and landed pro-democracy activists in prison.
Responding to the wave of people fleeing tyranny, more than 500 churches in the United Kingdom joined in a nationwide initiative welcoming Hong Kong immigrants
As CBN News reported in May of 2020, pro-democracy protestors took to the streets after communist leaders enacted a national security law over the Hong Kong region that cast a wide net over anything that could be viewed by Beijing as anti-government.
Religious freedom activist Bob Fu told Christian Today at the time that the crackdown was so severe in some areas of the region that it was actually worse than mainland China.
"There is arbitrary detention, massive surveillance, and a huge crackdown of legally elected legislators," Fu described. "One church has had its bank account frozen, just for considering helping victims of political persecution."
"What is happening in Hong Kong sends a chilling message all over the world," he continued. "The world should take note: there is no rule of law anymore, no independence, no freedom of the press, no freedom of association, no freedom of speech anymore in Hong Kong. These are all gone."