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In Hong Kong, 14 pro-democracy activists found “guilty” of subversion

Photo: Chan Long Hei Associated Press Police stationed outside the court where the 14 pro-democracy activists were found “guilty” of subversion.

France Media Agency in Hong Kong

Published yesterday at 10:51 p.m. Updated yesterday at 11:54 p.m.

  • Asia

Hong Kong courts found 14 pro-democracy activists “guilty” of subversion on Thursday in the largest trial against pro-democracy supporters in the financial hub since Beijing introduced a national security law there.

This is the biggest case to date linked to this law promulgated in mid-2020 which crushed all dissent in Hong Kong after major, sometimes violent, pro-democracy demonstrations , in 2019 in this territory in southern China.

Authorities charged 47 leading opposition figures from across the political spectrum with “conspiracy to subvert,” saying their political activities were aimed at bringing down the government.

The courts ruled on Thursday on the case of the sixteen accused who, among the 47, had pleaded not guilty.

The judge of the High Court Andrew Chan on Thursday declined the names of 14 defendants convicted of subversion, including former MPs “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Ray Chan as well as former journalist Gwyneth Ho. On the other hand, the court found two former district councilors not guilty.

Sentencing is expected later this year.

< p>The convicted activists planned to undermine the government's authority and “in our view, this would have resulted in a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong”, wrote three hand-picked High Court judges.

Most of the defendants have been behind bars since 2021.

All were charged in 2021 with “conspiracy to commit acts of subversion”, offenses punishable by life imprisonment, after having organized, a year earlier, an unofficial primary intended to select opposition candidates for the legislative elections.

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Their goal was to gain a majority in the city's partially elected assembly, in order to veto budgets and potentially force Hong Kong's then-pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, to resign. according to the prosecution.

The defense argued that the Basic Law, which serves as Hong Kong's constitution, provided for the mechanisms allowing this project, and that it was therefore “a purely political question rather than a legal question”.

Diplomats present

The trial was held without a jury, which constitutes a departure from Hong Kong's judicial tradition.

The case was closely followed by the international community. Diplomats from the French and Italian consulates and others from the European Union visited the court on Thursday.

The United States and other Western countries have criticized Beijing for reducing the freedoms promised when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.

The arrest of the main defendants in January 2021, including Leung Kwok-hung, lawyer Benny Tai and former pro-democracy MP Claudia Mo, led the United States to impose sanctions on six Chinese and Hong Kong officials. Benny Tai and Claudia Mo have decided to plead guilty.

The United States Consul General in Hong Kong, Gregory May, indicated in May that Washington would “closely monitor the expected verdicts and their sentences.”

This week, Hong Kong police announced that they had arrested seven people in two days for posting on the social network Facebook ” messages of a seditious nature.”

The arrests are the first in connection with a new national security law that came into force in March and provides prison sentences of up to life for five categories of crimes, including treason, insurrection, espionage, sabotage and external interference.

This text also removed the possibility of reducing the sentence by one third for good behavior for those convicted under of national security, which dealt a blow to the 31 pro-democracy defendants who had chosen to plead guilty with the hope of a possible early release.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116