Five directors and a secretary of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund yesterday denied that they had registered it under the Companies Ordinance.
It is because they are supposed to contest that the fund can be called a society.
The five trustees – the retired Bishop of Hong Kong and now Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 90, lawyer Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, 74, singer Denise Ho Wan-see, 45, l Former academic Hui Po-keung, 62, and former lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, 67 – along with secretary Sze Ching-wee, 37, appeared before senior magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen in the court of West Kowloon Trial.
They pleaded not guilty to failing to apply for listing or an exemption from listing in the fund within a specified time.
The law set August 9 for a pretrial review. The actual trial will begin on September 19 and is expected to last five days.
The court heard that the six defendants failed to apply to the head of companies for registration or exemption from registration of the fund within a month of its establishment.
The six defendants were represented by lead counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, while the prosecution was represented by acting senior deputy director of public prosecutions Laura Ng Shuk-kuen and acting lead prosecutor Jennifer Tsui Sin-chi.
Ng said the prosecution would call 17 witnesses and had 10 boxes of documents and eight hours of video footage as evidence.
The prosecution will send the documents to the defense within a week, but Ng said it would take about two months to prepare a transcript of the video footage.
Pang said there were only nine prosecution witnesses at the start of the case and “I don’t know why there are 17 witnesses now.”
He said the prosecution had gone too far in bringing far too much evidence to court for a case in which the maximum penalty is a HK$10,000 fine.
“It seems excessive to waste the court’s time on such a simple case,” Pang said. But he said he was “not teaching the Justice Department how to do its job.”
He said there won’t be many factual disputes in the case, although the defense will discuss whether the fund should be considered a corporation.
One of the trustees, Margaret Ng, said in court that they pleaded not guilty because they believed the allegations against them were false.
The prosecution said it did not register the fund as a company, she added, but the defense attorney said the point at issue in the case was whether the fund should be considered a corporation.
Some people outside the court shouted “keep it up” when the defendants arrived.
The courtroom’s public gallery was packed, with former League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen, Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Ronson Chan Ron-sing and consul general from Germany in Hong Kong Stefanie Seedig among the spectators.
All defendants except Cyd Ho had their bail extended. Ho was remanded in custody as she is serving a 14-month sentence for participating in unauthorized gatherings.