Hong Kong – Some of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists went on trial on Monday in the largest-ever prosecution under a law imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party to quell dissent.
18 defendants could face life in prison if convicted under national security law Critics say it’s eroding autonomy The status of a global business center promised when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997.
They were among 47 pro-democracy supporters arrested in 2021 under laws imposed following the 2019 protests. They were indicted in connection with the 2020 unofficial primary.
After activists were imprisoned or deported, the pro-democracy movement largely dried up. A growing number of young professionals are responding to the erosion of Western-style civil liberties in Hong Kong by leaving for the UK, US and other countries. US imposed sanctions He said authorities were responsible for the abuse.
The 2020 primary was intended to select pro-democracy candidates who could seize control of the territory’s legislative council. Prosecutors have accused them of trying to paralyze the Hong Kong government and overthrow the city’s leaders by securing a majority and denying the budget.
“The purpose of the conspiracy is to overthrow state power,” the prosecutor said in his opening statement.
The indictments involve many of the city’s most prominent activists, including legal scholar Benny Tai, former student leader Joshua Wong, and opposition leaders Wu Chi-Wai and Alvin Yang.
Prosecutors said Mr Tai and four others were organizers of the election and had essential involvement.
In previous lawsuits, the 18 activists said they intended to plead not guilty. However, two of them — former District Councilor Ng Kinwai and businessman Mykram — later changed their minds and joined his 29 other activists, including Tai, Wong, Yang, and Wu. Will plead guilty.
Most of the 47 activists charged with plotting subversion have been in custody without bail for nearly two years, but former lawmakers Raymond Chan and Helena Wong, who appeared in court on Monday, said the strict He was one of the minority who was granted bail under his terms. conditions.
Prior to their opening statements, the two, along with 14 other activists, pleaded not guilty before a judge appointed by city leaders to oversee the case. Ng and Lam pleaded guilty.
Those who plead guilty are sentenced after the trial. Several were in court to observe the trial, including Joshua Wong and former local councilor Lester Sham.
The court also heard that four of the 47 activists would give evidence as witnesses to the prosecution.
More than 200 people, including the defendant’s relatives and friends, lined up outside the court building early in the morning as local police stepped up security in the area.
Several people at the front of the line, including a group of 10 or more who showed up at 6 a.m. to secure seats for the hearing, said they had no idea what the trial was about. , pro-democracy activists in the audience began to wonder if they were simply trying to occupy seats so that other members of the public would not have a place to attend high-profile trials. .
Three members of the Social Democrat League staged a small protest outside the complex calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners. One member was pulled over by the police for violating the mask requirement when he tried to speak loudly with his mask off.
The trial is scheduled to last 90 days. The case has come under international scrutiny, with advocacy groups and politicians condemning the accusations.
The government has postponed congressional elections following the primary, citing public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic.of The electoral system was later revised To give Beijing more control over who is elected to Hong Kong’s legislature.
The National Security Act criminalizes secession, subversion, collusion with foreign powers to intervene in civic affairs, and acts of terrorism. Apart from activists, pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai is also facing conspiracy charges under the law.
Associated Press video journalist Alice Fung contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2023/02/06/subversion-trial-for-hong-kong-political-activists-opens/ Subversion trial against Hong Kong political activist begins