By Shirley Lau
Hong Kong, Feb 28 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong police charged 47 dissidents for conspiring to subvert state power on Sunday, in what is the largest crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy political camp under the controversial security law imposed by Beijing.
The democracy activists, who include some of the most prominent political figures in Hong Kong, walked into different police stations Sunday afternoon to report to the police, about seven weeks after they were arrested for alleged subversion in relation to unofficial primaries held by the pro-democracy camp last year.
They were initially scheduled to report to the police in April, but were informed on Friday to do so on Sunday instead, prompting speculation that they would be formally charged today under the national security law, which is punishable by life imprisonment.
On Sunday afternoon, police announced that 39 males and eight females, aged 23 to 64, have been charged with one count of “conspiracy to commit subversion.”
All of them are being detained and the case will be mentioned at a court in Kowloon on Monday.
The 47, who belong to different factions within the pro-democracy camp, include veteran activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, outspoken legal scholar Benny Tai, former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, Civic Party founding member Claudia Mo, localist Fergus Leung, Jimmy Sham of the prominent activist group Civil Human Rights Front, and young activist Joshua Wong, who is currently serving a 13.5-month sentence in prison for other charges.
The police’s move came less than a week before China is to hold the so-called “two sessions” in Beijing, the annual meetings of the country’s national legislature and the top political advisory body.
It also happened a few days after a high-ranking Beijing official said there was “an urgent need” to “optimize” Hong Kong’s electoral system.
The 47 dissidents were among 55 people rounded up on January 6 and 7 by police in a mass arrest operation that sent shockwaves through Hong Kong. They were alleged to have attempted to paralyze the government through their involvement in the primaries held in July 2020.