The 47 Pro-Democracy Figures in Hong Kong’s Largest National Security Trial
Forty-seven pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have been charged with conspiracy to overthrow in a landmark political case. Many defendants have spent nearly two years in prison awaiting trial.
The case highlights the sweeping power of national security laws that China has imposed to tighten control over the city following massive anti-government protests. These are politicians, academics and activists who are currently facing prison sentences.
Benny Tai58 years old, used to be a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong26 years old, became a prominent activist at the age of 14.
Twelve is elected legislatorswho often use their presence in the legislature to protest China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Mo served as a legislator for eight years and became known as “Aunt Mo.”
Better known as “Long Hair,” Leung has been a mainstay of the opposition for nearly two decades.
Chan was Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator.
Twenty-one has been district electionsincludes young activists who were elected in the months following anti-government protests in 2019.
Sham is the leader of an activist group that has held major pro-democracy rallies throughout 2019.
others have prominent activists who worked for different social purposes.
Ng is a former flight attendant turned union leader.
Ho is a journalist who rose to fame in 2019 when during a live stream of a crowd attacking protesters, she herself was beaten by thugs.
Wong is a student leader who became active when she was in high school.
Prolonged detention without trial
The 47 defendants were first charged in February 2021 with subversion charges in a case centered on holding an informal primaries vote.
Unlike other types of crime, national security cases impose a high bail threshold, under which authorities can hold defendants for months or even years before they are released. judge. Critics say that leads to the assumption that the defendants are guilty.
In pre-trial hearings, 16 people pleaded not guilty and 31 pleaded guilty, including Benny Tai and Joshua Wong. Most, if not all, of these 47 are expected to receive prison sentences, which can range from less than three years to life in prison.
The defendants and their attorneys are prohibited from commenting on the case. But legal experts say democracy advocates are likely to come under enormous pressure to plead guilty because of lengthy detention times, dwindling financial resources and a tough chance of victory in an established court. modeled after China’s authoritarian system.
Samuel Bickett, a Washington, DC-based lawyer and activist who was jailed in Hong Kong after a scuffle with a plainclothes police officer in 2019, said: “The process is designed designed to be as painful as possible.
The transformation of Hong Kong’s political landscape
Hong Kong was engulfed in widespread protests calling for more freedom from China starting in June 2019. To quell the unrest, Beijing imposed a national security law in June 2020, days before 47 democrats held primaries which resulted in their arrest a few months later for overthrow.
Nearly three-quarters of the 47 people have been jailed since then, a period of almost two years. Their absence has contributed to a scarcity of anti-government voices in Hong Kong’s legislature, which has passed controversial measures without opposition, such as the test. patriots only” for political candidates.
The rally begins
Massive anti-government protests began and escalated violently for months.
National Security Law is enacted
The new law bans vaguely defined crimes of secession, subversion and terrorism, with possible sentences of life in prison.
Pro-democracy candidates held a primary vote ahead of the upcoming Legislative Council elections. The 47 defendants helped organize or participate in the event.
Initial Election Day
47 people charged, most denied bail
They were charged with “subversion conspiracy,” for organizing and participating in pro-democracy primaries. Most were refused bail and held behind bars as a lengthy legal process began.
New election rules announced
China has announced new rules for elections in Hong Kong, limiting candidates to only those deemed loyal to Beijing.
Elections “for patriots only” take place
More than 30 defendants are currently in custody. Most of them were jailed for nearly two years before the trial began.
The trial is expected to last three months.