Monday, March 20, 2023

Landmark national security trial of Hong Kong democracy activists begins. Here’s what you need to know | CNN

Hong Kong

Some have been seasoned politicians and veteran protest leaders. Others have been lecturers, unionists and well being care staff. They hailed from totally different generations and held a variety of political beliefs, however have 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 territory has come to be identified, will begin showing in courtroom from Monday going through expenses that would ship them to jail for all times.

Sixteen of the defendants have pleaded not responsible to the costs laid towards them and are anticipated to be the primary ones to take the stand.

Their alleged crime? Organizing and taking part in an unofficial primary election that prosecutors have referred to as a “massive and well-organized scheme to subvert the Hong Kong government.”

This is Hong Kong’s largest nationwide safety regulation trial since Beijing imposed the sweeping legislation on the town following mass anti-government protests in 2019. The regulation criminalizes vaguely outlined acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with international 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 shedding its political freedoms and autonomy.

John Burns, emeritus professor on the University of Hong Kong, stated the trial of the democrats is a “test of will” of Beijing’s capability to utterly wipe out organized opposition in Hong Kong.

Burns stated arresting the democrats and urgent expenses towards 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 is a process of removing them. By shutting down political parties, shutting down trade unions, they are shutting down the basis of the support for organized opposition,” Burns stated.

The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly denied such accusations. Instead, it insists the regulation has ended chaos and restored stability to the town.

“Hong Kong prides itself on the rule of law; law enforcement agencies are duty-bound to take action against unlawful acts, regardless of the political background of the suspects. Arrests made are based on evidence and strictly in accordance with relevant laws and regulations,” the federal government stated in an announcement in response to the criticism.

Here is what it is advisable know concerning the case:

The 47 pro-democracy figures have been charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” underneath the nationwide safety regulation 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 could be finest positioned to bid towards pro-Beijing candidates.

Such contests are held in democracies around the globe, and contain political events deciding on 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, said the first vote was a “vicious plot” meant to “paralyze the government and undermine state power” by profitable a majority of seats and utilizing the mandate to dam laws.

The authorities’s Electoral Affairs Commission additionally responded that the “so-called” primaries have been “not part of the electoral procedures of the Legislative Council Election or other public elections.”

People line up to cast their ballots in the unofficial primary election, organized by pro-democracy opposition parties on July 11, 2020.

In January 2021, the 47 democrats have 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 underneath particular situations.

It is extraordinarily uncommon for defendants to not be granted bail in Hong Kong underneath the frequent regulation system. However, the nationwide safety regulation stipulates that defendants can’t be granted bail except the courtroom is satisfied they may “not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

A Department of Justice spokesman instructed CNN that bail software in circumstances regarding offenses “endangering national security” has been “handled fairly and adjudicated impartially by the court having regard to admissible evidence, applicable laws and merits of the case.”

The circumstances will likely be heard and not using a jury, deviating from the frequent regulation custom.

The defendants embody all kinds of political activists who describe themselves as starting from reasonable democrats to radical localists, a motion that advocates Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China.

Among the 16 pleading not responsible is former journalist Gwyneth Ho, 32, of the now-defunct Stand News, which was closed down after a police raid in 2021 and two editors have been charged with sedition.

Ho live-streamed the second when assailants indiscriminately hit folks – lots of whom have been getting back from a pro-democracy march – with sticks and steel bars at a train 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.

Gwyneth Ho seen working at her office in Hong Kong on August 4, 2020.

Leung Kwok-hung, 66, nicknamed “Long 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 20 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.

Activist Leung Kwok-hung holds a placard that says

Lam Cheuk-ting, 45, often joined road protests which at instances escalated into clashes with police, and he was usually 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 Long mob attack.

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting stands outside the Eastern Magistrates' Court on December 28, 2020.

On the opposite hand, a number of distinguished activists have pleaded responsible and await sentencing. They have both been detained underneath pre-trial custody or are serving jail time for different protest-related offenses.

These embody well-known activist Joshua Wong, 26, labeled an “extremist” by China’s state media, and Benny Tai, 54, a former regulation 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.

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