The District Court on Thursday appointed a judge designated to handle national security cases to preside over the expected trial of People Power leader Tam Tak-chi.
Tam is alleged to have chanted "seditious slogans" and encouraged other people to do so, but he isn't charged with an offence under the national security law.
Despite this, Stanley Chan – a judge handpicked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam to hear national security cases – has been specifically chosen for Tam's upcoming prosecution after the Department of Justice said the alleged offences could fall within the ambit of the national security law.
Chan said he agreed with Chief District Judge Justin Ko that a "normal" judge could be acting beyond their powers after prosecutors alleged that Tam's chants, including "Hong Kong independence, the only way out", were subversive.
Chan noted that he can continue to handle the case even if the defence's request for a district judge is granted, because he also sits at the District Court.
Tam’s barrister, Philip Dykes, accepted the arrangement, but said he would raise any issues with the court in future.
The case was adjourned to March 31 to decide if the proceedings should be dropped, as per the defence’s request. If the application is denied, a five-day trial is scheduled to take place in May.
Tam was once again remanded in custody, where he has been since his arrest on September 6.
His partymate and former lawmaker Ray Chan said it is unfair for Tam to be put behind bars for months on end without even being convicted.
“He was put in Lai Chi Kok detention centre in September this year… till May next year, that’s more than nine months. Before the trial he’s still innocent, [but] he’s kept in jail for nearly a year. It is very unfair to him,” he said.