On Monday, the largest national security trial in Hong Kong, including 47 pro-democracy activists, began (February 6).
Due to their participation in an unauthorised primary election in July 2020, the following individuals have been charged with “conspiracy to conduct subversion.” They might receive life sentences if convicted.
The 16 who have entered a not guilty plea will be the main subjects of the trial. After the trial, the other 31 will receive their sentences after entering guilty pleas. Before the hearing started, there was a rare demonstration by supporters holding a banner that read “crackdown is shameless” and “immediately release all political detainees.”
According to experts, this case will demonstrate Hong Kong’s independence from Beijing’s national security law.
Authorities in China and Hong Kong claim that the law stabilised the area after it was rocked by protracted pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.
Others criticise the law’s harsh punishments, which include life in jail for subversion, cooperation with foreign forces, and terrorism.
The 2020 rule has been criticised by Western nations as a means of quashing opposition in the Asian financial centre.
The former British colony has been changed by the legislation to resemble the authoritarian mainland more.
According to Eric Lai, a fellow at the Georgetown Center for Asian Law in Washington, “this trial is not just a prosecution against the 47 opposition leaders, but also a trial for the populace, who has been supporting the pro-democracy movement for decades.”
The accused were denied a jury trial, breaking with the city’s custom. Three High Court judges appointed in accordance with the national security law will hear the case.
According to the prosecution, three defendants are anticipated to testify against the other defendants during the trial, which is anticipated to last 90 days.
The accused include prominent legal scholar Benny Tai, activists Owen Chow, Joshua Wong, and Lester Shum, as well as former legislators Claudia Mo, Au Nok-hin, and Leung Kwok-hung. They also include former politicians Claudia Mo and Au Nok-hin.
We are definitely not the ones who need to go on trial, according to Chow’s statement from September. “We’re not at all to blame,”
The gang had organised an unauthorised primary to choose opposition candidates the previous year before being detained in dawn raids in January 2021 and charged in March 2021.
The group wanted to take over the partially elected city assembly so they could forward the demands of the protesters and perhaps force John Lee Ka-Chiu, the leader of Hong Kong who had the approval of Beijing, to step down.
They were charged with trying to overthrow the government by the authorities. Despite official cautions, more than 610,000 people participated in the primary election. Beijing implemented a new political system that closely vetted candidates after Beijing and Hong Kong both abandoned the official election.