national security

About 47 persons have been charged with “subversion” for staging an unauthorised primary election, and the trial for the biggest national security case to ever occur in Hong Kong has officially started.

They include some of the most well-known pro-democracy campaigners in the city, like activists Benny Tai and Joshua Wong.

For the previous two years, the majority of them have been held back for security reasons.

Critics assert that the contentious national security statute of the city is a tool for quashing opposition.

Authorities in China and Hong Kong, meanwhile, insist that it is necessary to quell dissent.

Long lines of supporters were visible outside the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Monday, where the hearing is being held.

Outside the court, a small gathering of demonstrators also formed. One sign stated: “Crackdown is shameless,” along with the words, “Immediately liberate all political detainees.”

The unauthorised primary election, which was staged to choose candidates for a parliamentary election, was allegedly a “vicious scheme” to overthrow the government, according to the prosecution.

The accused had a “huge and well-organized conspiracy” to seize control of the legislature, obstruct the passage of laws, and ultimately remove the Beijing-appointed leader of the country.

The group, which has been accused of plotting a subversion, has insisted they were only engaging in customary opposition activities.

Those involved in the case, known as “The 47,” include:

Mr. Wong, 26, has served three terms in prison for his involvement in 2019 protests and a prohibited candlelight vigil.
Former University of Hong Kong professor Mr. Tai, 58, and journalist Gwyneth Ho, 26, who reported the 2019 Yuen Long attack on protesters,
Claudia Mo, a 66-year-old former legislator who served as a representative for eight years
Since 31 persons, including Mr. Wong and Mr. Tai, have entered guilty pleas and will receive sentences following the trial, only 16 of them will go on trial.

Days following the introduction of the national security bill, the primary was held in July 2020 and drew approximately 600,000 voters.

The first was quickly deemed illegal by the Chinese authorities. The authorities therefore decided to postpone the September Legislative Council elections, citing the pandemic as the cause.

Only “patriots,” or those who support China, were permitted to compete for office following a revision of the electoral regulations that allowed for the holding of the vote. It attracted the lowest voter turnout ever in Hong Kong.

Instead of a jury, as is customary in matters involving national security law, the trial will be presided over by three specially chosen judges. It is anticipated to go for 90 days.

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