Hong Kong Democratic activists face LIFE in jail for ‘subversion’ as Beijing further rejects dissent
- Dozens of leading democracy activists in Hong Kong face life imprisonment
- It marks the most sweeping use yet of Beijing’s strict new security lawwet
- The maximum penalty under the new security law is life imprisonment
Dozens of leading democracy activists in Hong Kong could face life sentences for organizing unofficial primaries, prosecutors have confirmed, in the most sweeping use yet of Beijing’s strict new security law.
Police accused the 47 activists of ‘subversion’ after holding a non-binding vote last year to select candidates for an ultimately postponed local election.
The defendants say they were simply participating in opposition politics.
Police stand guard outside the West Kowloon Law Courts buildings in Hong Kong, China, on Monday
Helena Wong, left, one of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, is surrounded by photographers outside a Hong Kong court, Monday, May 31
6 Pro-democracy activist Sze Tak-loy arrives Monday at the West Kowloon Law Courts Buildings in Hong Kong, China. Sze is one of 47 pro-democracy figures charged under Beijing-imposed national security law for undermining state power for participating in an unofficial 2020 primary to elect pro-democracy candidates for the since-delayed parliamentary elections
But authorities accused them of a “cruel plot” to undermine the government by seeking a majority in the city’s partially elected legislature.
On Monday, the defendants turned up en masse for the first time in nearly three months at a hearing in which a judge granted a request from prosecutors to move the case to the city’s Supreme Court.
The offenses heard in that court start at seven years in prison for those convicted. The maximum sentence under the new security law is life imprisonment.
Pro-democracy activist Lee Yue-shun leaves West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on bail over charges related to national security law in Hong Kong, China
Beijing has moved to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous city after massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.
The security law criminalises anything that the authorities consider to be subversion, secession, terrorism or conspiracy with foreign troops.
Since then, police and prosecutors have broadly applied the law, with the vast majority of those accused of political expression.
Under the new law – which Beijing imposed directly on the city last June – suspects can only be released on bail if they can convince a court that they no longer pose any national security risk.
Pro-democracy activist Cheng Tat-hung leaves West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on bail over charges related to Hong Kong’s national security law
Pro-democracy activist Chan Po-ying wife of Leung Kwok-hung, better known as “Long Hair,” arrives Monday at the West Kowloon Law Courts Buildings in Hong Kong, China
That clause has scrapped Hong Kong’s customary law tradition that maintains a presumption of bail for non-violent crimes.
Monday’s proceedings marked the first time the public had seen most of the defendants since early March, when the vast majority – 36 – were denied bail during a massive hearing.
That hearing dragged on for so many days that some in the dock collapsed from exhaustion.
The bail decisions published since that hearing show that judges are deciding whether some of the individuals detained still pose a potential security risk.
People are raising their hands to support the 47 pro-democracy activists charged in a Hong Kong court on Monday, May 31, with conspiracy to commit subversion. The activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion for participating in an unofficial primaries held last year appeared in court on Monday for a court citation
Claudia Mo, a former lawmaker, was denied bail, in part because of WhatsApp messages with foreign journalists in which she commented on news and political events.
Another former lawmaker, Jeremy Tam, had his application partially rejected because the United States Consulate emailed him to “catch up” – even though the email went unanswered.
In both cases, the judges argued that the fact that the two defendants remained influential meant that bail had to be refused.
China says national security law is needed to restore stability.
Critics say it has negated the freedoms Hong Kong was promised prior to the handover and has quickly begun to alter the city’s vaunted business-trustworthy customary law traditions.