The District Court has ruled that it can try offences related to uttering seditious words because the national security law prevails over all local laws.
Lawyers for People Power activist Tam Tak-chi, who faces numerous charges for allegedly chanting seditious slogans, had argued that his case should only be tried in the Court of First Instance.
They said the move to transfer the case from the magistracy to the District Court was illegal, therefore the District Court has no jurisdiction.
But at the District Court on Friday, judge Stanley Chan rejected that argument, citing the national security law which states that all courts can handle security cases.
He said an article in the Beijing-imposed law also made clear that it trumps local laws when inconsistencies arise.
The judge also pointed out that the defence did not challenge the prosecution’s proposition that sedition could fall within the ambit of the national security law.
Chan added that the ruling on jurisdiction has far-reaching consequences, and it was made for practical purposes.
“This court [cannot] provide an authoritative interpretation of articles under the national security law, because the power for interpretation is vested in the NPCSC,” he said, referring to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's top legislature.
The defence said it needed time to study the ruling for a possible legal challenge. The judge adjourned the case until April 19.
Tam has been in custody since last September.
The activist has not been charged under the national security law in connection with this case, but was charged with security offences over last year's Legco primaries held by the pro-democracy camp.