HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s much-anticipated national security trial, which involves dozens of people—including former pro-democracy legislators, activists, and legal scholars—began on Monday with tight security over 2 years after they were detained in pre-dawn police incursions across the territory.
Hong Kong’s security trial commenced today
The defendants are charged with “subversion” for holding a clandestine primary to select their candidates for the 2020 Legislative Council election, which the government later postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts building before the proceedings, there was a significant police presence, including policemen with dogs.
Some individuals started waiting in line for seats in the court’s public gallery the previous night, and by morning the line had wrapped around the entire structure.
Those indicted include Leung Kwok-hung, a well-known activist also known as “Long Hair,” and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, one of five people accused of being a “major organiser” of the primary.
“There is no crime to which I must respond.” “Acting against a totalitarian regime is not a crime,” defendant and former lawmaker Leung told the court. Judge Andrew Chan replied that the hearing was a “solemn occasion” and urged the defendants and the public members to show respect.
Joshua Wong, a well-known activist from around the world; Claudia Mo, a former journalist who is now a legislator; and Benny Tai, a legal expert and former professor, are just a few of the people who have pleaded guilty.
The 47 accused constitute a substantial percentage of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leadership after enormous marches for political reform in 2019 were stymied by the COVID-19 outbreak and many were forced into exile owing to the national security law.
The Democratic Party held the primary so that they could put forward their best candidates for the Hong Kong Legislative Council (Legco) election. The primary, according to the prosecution, was a “vicious scheme” to overthrow the government and cause “mutual destruction” by seizing control of the city’s legislature.
“What type of illegal methods, what kind of violent threat is running for Legco?” asked the League of Social Democrats’ chairwoman and Leung’s wife, Chan Po-ying, outside the court. The trial is anticipated to continue for 90 days. Following its conclusion, all defendants will be sentenced.
According to the security law, which went into effect on June 30, 2020, the defendants could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for conspiring to engage in subversive activities, three to ten years in prison for “active participation,” and between ten years and life in prison if they are found to be “principal offenders.”
In 1997, Hong Kong was given back to China in accordance with the “one country, two systems” policy, which was designed to ensure its freedoms and independent legal system for at least 50 years.
Beijing imposed the expansive security ordinance on the city following months of demonstrations that started as large-scale marches against proposals to allow extradition to the mainland and forged into a campaign for democracy that occasionally turned violent.
The law also imposes life sentences for acts of “terrorism,” “secession,” and “collusion with foreign forces.” Amnesty International, a rights organisation, stated a year after it took effect that it had “decimated” liberties in Hong Kong and set the region on the path to becoming a police state.
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