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July 9, 2024

The Witness: 47-person case plea for mitigation, Kowloon East | Judges concerned Joshua Wong did not write a mitigation letter; Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho hopes to reunite with his family soon.

2024.07.05

In the case where 47 pro-democracy figures were charged with “conspiracy to subvert state power,” the plea for mitigation began on Friday (5th) for six individuals from Kowloon East. Joshua Wong, Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho, and Kinda Li Ka-tat were the first to complete their statements, all claiming to be “active participants.” During Joshua Wong’s plea, he acknowledged that he had sought foreign assistance, but he reiterated that the case was related to local issues. The judge noted Wong’s decision not to write a mitigation letter, which Wong’s barrister said was a personal choice, but he was instructed to move on after serving his sentence.

During Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho’s statement, he claimed that during his time as a legislator, he had coordinated votes to ensure the early passage of funding, showing that he did not indiscriminately veto proposals, although this was questioned by the judge. He also expressed a desire to reunite with his family soon and had pleaded guilty early, voluntarily giving a statement to the police. Tam personally wrote a letter of mitigation, sincerely apologizing to Hong Kong society and the central government.

Kinda Li Ka-tat ’s side stated that he hopes to continue working in the social welfare sector, as a drama teacher and therapist, serving the community, and mentioned that his girlfriend is waiting to marry him. The case will continue next Monday, with statements from Tam Tak-chi, Wu Chi-wai, and Sze Tak-loy.

Joshua Wong’s representative, barrister Marco Li, stated that not all defendants should be punished with the same penalties; he further pointed out that within the three levels of penalties for the subversion charge, Wong is classified as an “active participant,” reiterating that he was only a participant in the primaries and did not organize or assist in the primaries. Regarding Wong’s signing of the “No Regrets for the Resistance” declaration, Li agreed that it should be considered an aggravating factor.

Li also agreed that the case mentions Wong appealing for foreign help, but noted that he had held this stance since 2016, before the implementation of the National Security Law, and had also sought foreign support and engaged in lobbying in 2019. However, he emphasized that Wong’s seeking help was not due to the planning of this case, which is locally relevant. Therefore, he argued that Article 30 of the National Security Law, concerning conspiring with or being instructed, controlled, funded, or supported by foreign or overseas institutions, organizations, or personnel, does not apply to this case.

Barrister Marco Li discussed the totality of the sentence, and the judge was concerned with Joshua Wong’s criminal record and whether he committed offenses while on bail. 

As stated in court, Wong’s record includes a 13.5-month sentence for surrounding the police headquarters on June 21, 2019; a 4-month sentence for a march against the anti-mask law on October 5, 2019; and a 10-month sentence for the June 4 assembly case in 2020, which, upon appeal, was reduced by 2 months. Li pointed out that Wong pleaded guilty in the aforementioned cases and confirmed that he participated in assemblies while on court bail.

Marco Li: Joshua Wong did not write a mitigation letter, but will move on after serving his sentence. 

Li continued, stating that Wong expressed guilt early on and was considered eligible for a one-third reduction. He also mentioned that Wong’s mother, pastor, and teachers wrote letters of mitigation on his behalf, indicating Wong’s hope to be released and rehabilitated soon. Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng questioned, however, that these letters were written by others, not by the person himself. Li agreed that Wong did not write a mitigation letter, but noted it was his personal choice, and he was instructed by Wong that he intends to move on and reform after serving his sentence.

Li further mentioned that Joshua Wong is not a district councilor, but he assisted in coordinating and distributing 1.5 million masks during the COVID-19 pandemic; Wong’s involvement in a civil contempt of court case was also mentioned by Judge Russell Coleman in his judgment. Johnny Chan Jong-herng at one point questioned this, noting that Judge Russell Coleman had already considered this during the trial, questioning the reuse of the same reason for a sentence reduction. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang also asked if it was intended to show that Wong has always had a positive and good character? Li agreed.

Johnny Chan Jong-herng stated that considering Wong’s criminal record, he could not be seen as having good character. Alex Lee also stated that the aspects mentioned by Li had already been considered by other judges and had been accounted for in sentencing discounts, questioning if further reductions could not be made. Marco Li stated that he was not asking the court for additional deductions, but merely pointing out that Wong’s offending was not sudden, highlighting his ongoing active involvement in social affairs.

Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho wishes to reunite with family

Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho’s representative, senior barrister Ambrose Ho, argued that Tam comes from a working-class family, with a father who is a driver and diligently provides for the family. Tam himself became a commercial pilot through his own efforts, entered politics in 2016, and gave up his piloting career. He has been humble in his parliamentary conduct, never intending to be a radical politician, merely wishing to give back to society without seeking personal fame or profit. One letter of mitigation mentioned that Tam has made numerous good deeds, such as establishing scholarships to encourage aspiring pilots, showing him to be a sincere, passionate, and socially conscious young man.

Ho also stated that Tam has been remanded for over three years now and is eager to reunite with his family, mother, wife, and twins. He had invested in a restaurant, which closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he feels deeply apologetic for the burden his wife has had to bear in taking care of the family; he is currently studying for a master’s degree in accounting and business, ranking among the top of his class and preparing himself for a new career.

Ho proposed that Tam pleaded guilty early, voluntarily recording a statement with the police in the second half of 2021, demonstrating his remorse. He added that this statement mentioned, “If I had known it was illegal, I definitely would not have participated in these primaries,” reflecting Tam’s mindset at the time of the incident; he also reiterated that there was confusion in society about the National Security Law at that time, and Tam did not know where the ‘red lines’ were, suggesting it is unfair to judge Tam with hindsight.

In his own letter, Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho sincerely apologized to Hong Kong society and the central government. 

Regarding Tam being labeled as an executive of “Power for Democracy,” Ho stated that “Power for Democracy” was an organization established back in 2002 to connect members of the pro-democracy camp, not specifically for the primaries; Tam’s role within “Power for Democracy” was as a representative of the pro-democracy camp, with minimal involvement, participating in about one meeting per year, not involved in decisions about “Power for Democracy” handling the primaries, nor did he have the login password for their Facebook page.

Ho also stated that Tam has completely left politics, noting that after the government announced the postponement of the Legislative Council elections in 2020 and also disqualified some sitting legislators, Tam was not among those disqualified but voluntarily resigned from his position as a legislator, marking the end of his political career.

Ho quoted from Tam’s personally written mitigation letter, stating, “Here, I want to express to the court my deep regret for my past words and actions, and I hope to sincerely apologize publicly to all sectors of Hong Kong society and the central government.”

Ambrose Ho cited records indicating that Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho did not indiscriminately veto proposals, which the judge questioned. 

Ho further pointed out that during June to July 2020, while still serving as a Legislative Council member, there were some livelihood funding proposals pending votes that, if not passed, would be deferred to the next term. However, Tam coordinated with other council members and voted in favor himself to expedite the approval of these funds, earning praise from officials and even being described as a “miracle day,” demonstrating that Tam did not indiscriminately veto proposals.

Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng at one point questioned, asserting that this was part of a legislator’s duties and should not be taken as an indication of good character; Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai also questioned, noting this was his “past” behavior of not indiscriminately vetoing, whereas the case concerns indiscriminate vetoes in the subsequent council term. Ho responded, “Do not forget that actions speak much louder than words,” and argued that being an active participant should not automatically brand Tam as radical.

Andrew Chan continued to question, stating that the Civic Party is very radical; Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang also noted, based on Tat Cheng Tat-hung’s testimony, that Tam had suggested at a preparatory meeting before a Civic Party press conference in March 2020 to adopt an approach of indiscriminate vetoing. Ho then said he was presenting another side for the court to consider.

Ho also argued that the National Security Law does not have retroactive force, thus the behavior of the defendants before its enactment on July 1, 2020, can only be used to determine if a conspiracy was being planned and who was involved, but not as a basis for sentencing. Andrew Chan at one point questioned, noting that Tam did not withdraw after July 1; Ho stated that Tam pleaded guilty because of this. Johnny Chan pointed out that not withdrawing is inaction, but staying involved constitutes action.

Ho said Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho belongs in the category of “active participant.”

Ho stated that if the three-tier penalty system applies, Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho would be considered a second-tier “active participant”; he highlighted three points for the court to consider, including Tam’s attendance at primary election forums, where he only spoke three times; Tam’s participation in the primaries and submission of a formal nomination form for the Legislative Council election, from which he was not disqualified but chose to resign voluntarily.

At one point, Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang noted that the defense argued that sentencing in this case should be based on common law principles. However, from a conspiracy case about two months ago, the judges ruled that conspirators who are part of the same conspiracy and are aware of the conspiracy agreement should have uniform culpability and a similar starting point for sentencing. If someone is a mastermind or a leading figure, that would be an aggravating factor, thus a minor role in the conspiracy does not constitute a mitigating factor. He asked Ambrose Ho for his views.

Ho said he does not advocate this view and noted that the issue is interesting but might be more of an academic discussion. Later, Ho pointed out that in very serious crimes, if someone’s role is minor but their culpability is equal to others, it seems an incorrect direction for sentencing, suggesting that sentencing should be proportionate to the degree of involvement.

Kinda Li Ka-tat points out that the sentencing should be 3 to 6.5 years. 

Kinda Li Ka-tat’s representative, barrister Edward T.C. Chan, argued during mitigation that Li is classified as a second-tier “active participant,” noting that this category allows for a broad range of sentencing. He suggested that Li is on the lower half of this tier, with a starting point for sentencing between 3 to 6.5 years.

Regarding Li’s personal background, he is currently 33 years old, from a working-class family, born in Mainland China, and moved to Hong Kong at the age of three, living in Kwun Tong. He excelled academically in high school and organized fundraising for the Wenchuan earthquake during his school years. He graduated from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in Social Work and became a registered social worker, although he indicated it would be difficult for him to continue in social work following his conviction. Li has an interest in drama and teaches children with special educational needs while pursuing a Master’s degree in expressive arts therapy.

Chan continued, stating that in 2019, seeing many young people feeling powerless and sad, Li decided to become a district councilor to influence more people and was eventually elected as the councilor for the Kwun Tong Healthy District. A few months after his election, hoping to change the situation on a larger political platform, he decided to participate in the primaries.

Chan noted that Li submitted his application for the “Power for Democracy” primaries in June 2020, marking what he described as “he joined the dark side on that day onwards,” now looking back as a mistake and “the beginning of his downfall.” However, Chan pointed out that Li pleaded guilty early, admitted to the facts of the case, and hoped to receive a one-third reduction in his sentence.

Chan presented 41 letters of mitigation for Kinda Li Ka-tat, some NGO says they will hire him

Chan presented 41 letters of mitigation for Kinda Li Ka-tat, from Li himself, his family and girlfriend, principals, classmates and professors from the social work department, students and parents he met while working as a social worker and drama teacher, and neighbors, describing the content as moving. Chan mentioned that Li’s girlfriend had proposed to him, but as the only son in his family, Li hopes to hold a formal wedding after his release, inviting friends and relatives to attend. He also mentioned a letter from a non-profit organization expressing an interest in hiring Li as a research assistant in the future.

Chan noted that Li has been in detention for over three years, during which time his grandmother passed away, and his girlfriend has been waiting to marry him, indicating that Li will not pursue a political career in the future. Chan also mentioned that during a lunch meeting on Friday, Li described his current detention since 2021 and his departure from Stanley, observing that “The trees are green, the sun is bright, the sky is blue, everything is very refreshing” along the way.

Chan expressed surprise at hearing this, noting that he frequently visits Stanley but never pays attention to these things, affirming that Li has reformed and reiterated Li’s hope to continue working in the social welfare sector, as a drama teacher and therapist, serving the community. Li in the dock also wiped his eyes at one point.

Six defendants sat alongside each other in court. Joshua Wong was further away from everyone

On Friday, the court handled the plea for mitigation for six individuals who participated in the primaries for the Kowloon East district, including Joshua Wong, Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho, Kinda Li Ka-tat, Tam Tak-chi, Wu Chi-wai, who pleaded guilty, and Sze Tak-loy, who was convicted after trial. The proceedings are expected to take two days. In the morning, 50 people, including Wu Chi-wai’s apprentice and the vice-chairman of the Democratic Party, Mok Kin-shing, queued for the court. (see another article).

The six defendants sat in the back row during the court session, with only Joshua Wong arranged to sit in a single seat farthest from the public gallery. As observed by reporters in the courtroom (see image below), before the session began, Wong wore black glasses, dressed in a blue shirt and a grey jacket, smiled at the audience, and clasped his hands together. During his barrister’s statements, he occasionally rested his head on his hand or nodded.

Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho appeared noticeably slimmer, Wu Chi-wai looked tired

Jeremy Jansen Tam Man-ho appeared noticeably slimmer, wearing black-rimmed glasses, with thick hair. At one point, he took off his glasses and blinked forcefully, wearing a white shirt with black checks and a dark blue suit jacket; during his barrister’s statements, Tam sat upright, fixing his gaze on the judges.

Tam Tak-chi’s hair has turned white and unkempt, showing more wrinkles, dressed in a black “REPLAY” T-shirt from the “Tat Ming Pair” concert, overlaid with a black jacket featuring red and gold patterns. He occasionally touched his hair while talking to his lawyer, at one point making rap gestures to the public gallery, mouthing “yo-yo.” After the court session started, he frequently conversed with Sze Tak-loy, occasionally giving Joshua Wong a thumbs-up, and at one point tore a piece of paper and folded it.

Wu Chi-wai’s hair is thinning on top, his expression somewhat haggard with more wrinkles on his face. Upon entering the court, he immediately waved to the public gallery, dressed in a white striped shirt and black trousers. Sze Tak-loy wore a light blue shirt and black glasses, smiling and waving to the audience, occasionally resting against the wall during others’ statements.

Kinda Li Ka-tat wore a light blue suit jacket and trousers, holding documents, and at one point rested against the wall. Before leaving the court, he waved to the public gallery.

Some of the convicted defendants also attended the hearing on Tuesday, arranged in two extended courts, including: Winnie Yu Wai-ming, Wong Tsz-yuet, Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, Wong Pik-wan, Carol Ng Man-yee, Owen Chow Ka-shing, among others.

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