Conflicts & War

Trial of 47 pro-democracy activists begins in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, Feb 6 (EFE).- The trial against 47 of the most prominent pro-democratic figures in Hong Kong, accused of participating in a conspiracy to commit subversive acts, began Monday in the former British colony.

This is the largest process initiated under the controversial National Security Law, imposed by Beijing in June 2020 to counter the 2019 anti-government movement. The law can carry penalties of life imprisonment for cases of subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.

Proceedings are expected to take more than four months and defendants can face life in prison if convicted.

Defendants represent a cross section of Hong Kong’s opposition, from prominent jurist Benny Tai, to former lawmakers such as Claudia Mo, Au Nok-hin and Leung Kwok-hung, as well as young democracy activists such as Joshua Wong and Lester Shum.

A total of 31 defendants, including Tai and Wong, have pleaded guilty, while 16 of them have denied the charges.

The trial started under strong security measures and numerous police presence in the vicinity of the court.

In March 2021, the bloc was jointly accused of “conspiracy to commit subversion” surrounding an unofficial primary election held in July 2020, the aim of which was to help supporters of democracy select candidates for elections to the Legislative Council and gain a majority.

Defendants are accused of having tried, in the event of having obtained a majority, to abuse their powers as legislators to veto budget bills, paralyze the functioning of the government and, ultimately, force the then head of the Executive, Carrie Lam, to resign.

Authorities scrapped those elections, and Beijing introduced a new political system that strictly controlled who could run.

Most of the defendants – 34 of 47 – have been in prison for almost two years and only a few have been granted bail, during which they have to meet strict conditions, including restrictions on freedom of expression.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted the National Security Law directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of anti-government protests and riots.

It criminalizes subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption of transport and other infrastructure.

The law gives police sweeping powers, alarming pro-democracy activists, civil society groups and business partners, as such laws have been widely used to silence and punish dissidents in China.

Authorities of the former British colony say regulations have restored stability and peace to the city. EFE


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