Some had been seasoned politicians and veteran protest leaders. Others had been teachers, unionists and well being care staff. They hailed from totally different generations and held a variety of political opinions, however had been introduced collectively by what they are saying was a shared dedication to Hong Kong’s democratic future.
Now, the “Hong Kong 47,” because the group of pro-democracy activists within the semi-autonomous Chinese language territory has come to be identified, will begin showing in courtroom from Monday dealing with expenses that might ship them to jail for all times.
Sixteen of the defendants have pleaded not responsible to the fees laid in opposition to them and are anticipated to be the primary ones to take the stand.
Their alleged crime? Organizing and collaborating in an unofficial main election that prosecutors have known as a “large and well-organized scheme to subvert the Hong Kong authorities.”
That is Hong Kong’s largest nationwide safety legislation trial since Beijing imposed the sweeping laws on the town following mass anti-government protests in 2019. The legislation criminalizes vaguely outlined acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with overseas forces, all of that are punishable by life in jail.
The landmark trial – the primary involving subversion expenses – is anticipated to run for weeks, however its implications might final for years and even many years in a metropolis critics say is quickly dropping its political freedoms and autonomy.
John Burns, emeritus professor on the College of Hong Kong, mentioned the trial of the democrats is a “check of will” of Beijing’s capability to fully wipe out organized opposition in Hong Kong.
Burns mentioned arresting the democrats and urgent expenses in opposition to them was meant to each intimidate and get rid of the opposition, both by chasing them out of Hong Kong into exile or by jailing them.
“It’s a strategy of eradicating them. By shutting down political events, shutting down commerce unions, they’re shutting down the premise of the help for organized opposition,” Burns mentioned.
The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly denied such accusations. As an alternative, it insists the legislation has ended chaos and restored stability to the town.
“Hong Kong prides itself on the rule of legislation; legislation enforcement businesses are duty-bound to take motion in opposition to illegal acts, whatever the political background of the suspects. Arrests made are based mostly on proof and strictly in accordance with related legal guidelines and laws,” the federal government mentioned in an announcement in response to the criticism.
Here’s what you could know in regards to the case:
The 47 pro-democracy figures have been charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” below the nationwide safety legislation over their alleged roles in an unofficial main election in July 2020.
The vote was held forward of a legislative election to seek out out which contenders can be greatest positioned to bid in opposition to pro-Beijing candidates.
Such contests are held in democracies all over the world, and contain political events choosing the strongest candidates for an election. Hong Kong’s democrats had beforehand held such votes in an try to match the group and self-discipline of the rival pro-Beijing camp and keep away from splitting the opposition.
Authorities, nonetheless, mentioned the first vote was a “vicious plot” meant to “paralyze the federal government and undermine state energy” by successful a majority of seats and utilizing the mandate to dam laws.
The federal government’s Electoral Affairs Fee additionally responded that the “so-called” primaries had been “not a part of the electoral procedures of the Legislative Council Election or different public elections.”
In January 2021, the 47 democrats had been arrested en masse in a daybreak raid. Since then, many have been remanded in custody or are in jail for different protest-related offenses. Fifteen have been granted bail, however two of them breached bail situations final yr and had been introduced below custody, in keeping with police.
This can be very uncommon for defendants to not be granted bail in Hong Kong below the frequent legislation system. Nonetheless, the nationwide safety legislation stipulates that defendants can’t be granted bail until the courtroom is satisfied they’ll “not proceed to commit acts endangering nationwide safety.”
A Division of Justice spokesman informed CNN that bail software in instances regarding offenses “endangering nationwide safety” has been “dealt with pretty and adjudicated impartially by the courtroom having regard to admissible proof, relevant legal guidelines and deserves of the case.”
The instances shall be heard with no jury, deviating from the frequent legislation custom. The subversion trial is being heard by a bench of three Excessive Courtroom Judges designated nationwide safety laws.
The defendants embrace all kinds of political activists who describe themselves as starting from average democrats to radical localists, a motion that advocates Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China.
Among the many 16 pleading not responsible is former journalist Gwyneth Ho, 32, of the now-defunct Stand Information, which was closed down after a police raid in 2021 and two editors had been charged with sedition.
Ho live-streamed the second when assailants indiscriminately hit individuals – a lot of whom had been getting back from a pro-democracy march – with sticks and metallic bars at a prepare station in July 2019. Ho’s footage of the incident made worldwide headlines, sparking a probe into the dearth of police presence. Ho was injured herself within the assault. She later stepped away from journalism to run for the 2020 Legislative Council elections.
Leung Kwok-hung, 66, nicknamed “Lengthy Hair” for his signature locks, is a former legislator and retired civil servant. He had been on the entrance traces of the town’s politics for over twenty years and is an outspoken critic of China. He’s identified for political protests – each on the streets and inside the town’s legislative chamber. In 2017 he was disqualified from the legislature for refusing to take an oath swearing allegiance to China.
Lam Cheuk-ting, 45, commonly joined road protests which at occasions escalated into clashes with police, and he was typically seen negotiating with officers and asking them to cease utilizing tear fuel.
He was sentenced to 4 months in jail in January 2020 for disclosing the non-public data of people in a police investigation to the Yuen Lengthy mob assault.
Then again, a number of distinguished activists have pleaded responsible and await sentencing. They’ve both been detained below pre-trial custody or are serving jail time for different protest-related offenses.
These embrace well-known activist Joshua Wong, 26, labeled an “extremist” by China’s state media, and Benny Tai, 54, a former legislation professor and co-founder of the 2014 Occupy Central motion. Claudia Mo, 66, a former journalist-turned-legislator, who has beforehand been an outspoken critic of Beijing’s tightening grip over Hong Kong, has additionally pleaded responsible.
This story has been up to date