Choose transfers ‘subversion’ circumstances linked to 2020 democratic primaries to the Excessive Court docket the place the utmost sentence is life.
Hong Kong’s largest nationwide safety case has been despatched for trial on the Excessive Court docket, after 15 months in pre-trial procedures throughout which many of the 47 defendants had been remanded in custody.
Beneath the safety regulation, which Beijing imposed in 2020 following large, typically violent democracy protests the 12 months earlier than, the pro-democracy figures are charged with “conspiracy to subversion” for organising an unofficial primary election to decide on their finest candidates for the Legislative Council election, which was then postponed.
Subversion is without doubt one of the 4 main crimes beneath the safety regulation and carries a most punishment of life in jail.
The defendants, aged between 24 and 66, embody democratically elected lawmakers and district councillors, in addition to unionists, lecturers and others, whose political stances vary from modest reformists to radical localists.
The case was first dropped at court docket in March 2021, when many of the 47 had been denied bail after a four-day marathon hearing earlier than a decide handpicked by the federal government to strive nationwide safety circumstances.
Many of the pre-trial hearings over the previous 15 months, though held in an open court docket, have been topic to reporting restrictions – with the court docket repeatedly refusing purposes from defendants and journalists for the curbs to be lifted.
Relations and authorized representatives advised AFP information company that the dearth of transparency across the proceedings had made the defendants “pissed off and depleted”, and allowed the prosecution to “transfer the goalposts”.
After a 3 and a half day listening to that started on Wednesday and Thursday final week and completed on Tuesday, all however one of many 47 defendants was dedicated to the upper court docket by Principal Justice of the Peace Peter Legislation, considered one of quite a few judges designated to listen to nationwide safety circumstances.
Final Wednesday, Legislation introduced that 17 defendants had been dedicated for trial.
They included veteran activists “Lengthy Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, barrister Lawrence Lau, and journalist-turned-activist Gwyneth Ho.
Twenty-nine others – together with legal scholar Benny Tai, who was additionally one of many leaders of the Occupy Central motion in 2014 – had been dedicated for trial on Monday and Tuesday.
Defendants who plead not responsible are dedicated for trial, and those that plead responsible face sentencing, based on the Magistrates Ordinance.
The one excellent defendant will be a part of the group later after additional proceedings earlier than the Justice of the Peace.
Greater than 180 folks have been arrested because the safety regulation got here into pressure two years in the past, largely activists, unionists and journalists, and 115 have been prosecuted.
Three males have been convicted and sentenced to jail for 43 months to 9 years. One in every of them sought to attraction his 69-month sentence on Tuesday, with the court docket reserving judgement till early September.
The 47 defendants type the most important group in a single single case beneath the regulation.
Authorities say the safety regulation has efficiently returned stability to the territory following the 2019 protests. Rights teams say the regulation has “decimated” Hong Kong’s freedoms, which China had pledged to respect for at the least 50 years after taking management of the territory in 1997.