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Trial of Hong Kong Activists to Begin

    Trial of Hong Kong Activists to Begin
    Last updated Feb 06, 2023
    Image credit: aljazeera

    Facts

    • The highly-anticipated trial of 16 Hong Kong democracy activists began Monday. The 16 defendants are among 47 who pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to commit subversion under Chinese national security law.[1]
    • The trial comes three years after the defendants were accused of "subversion" for organizing an unofficial primary to elect candidates for the 2020 Legislative Council election, which was later postponed due to the COVID pandemic.[2]
    • Prosecutors say the illegitimate primary was created to paralyze Hong Kong’s government and topple the city’s leader by winning a majority to veto budgets. The defendants could face life in prison under China’s strict law.[3]
    • The trial of the group of activists — dubbed the "Hong Kong 47" — is the largest national security trial since Beijing imposed its sweeping legislation on Hong Kong following mass anti-government protests in 2019. It is also the first subversion trial.[4]
    • The "Hong Kong 47" were arrested in January 2021 in a mass raid. Many of them remained in custody, with 15 being granted bail. Though exceedingly rare for defendants to not be granted bail under Hong Kong's system, China’s law stipulates that defendants cannot be awarded bail unless the court is convinced they won't commit acts that endanger national security.[4]
    • The trial, which is expected to continue for 90 days, is being held at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court with people lining up amid heavy police presence. Critics believe the verdict will show if Hong Kong is in fact independent.[2]

    Spin

    Anti-China narrative

    This trial shows that Hong Kong is no different from other authoritarian regimes that imprison dissidents and undermine democracy. Beijing’s National Security Law was implemented to suppress any protests against China’s government, and Hong Kong adopted its own law that is closer to China’s than to its self-proclaimed common law system.

    Pro-China narrative

    The Hong Kong activists plotted a deliberate act of subversion against the city’s government. They sought to unlawfully win a majority in the Legislative Council in order to veto laws and paralyze the current government. This is a clear violation of the law and threat to national security, and a majority of participants have already pleaded guilty.

    Establishment split

    CRITICAL

    PRO

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