Dozens of leading Hong Kong democrats charged with subversion conspiracy

Henrietta Strickland
February 28, 2021

Beijing on Friday urged Washington to cease further action on a resolution that opposes the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Police said the defendants include 39 men and eight women aged between 23 and 64.

They are some of the territory's best-known democracy campaigners.

Those charged are routinely denied bail until trial and face up to life in prison if convicted.

The move is part of a continuing crackdown on the city's democracy movement, with a string of arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong's democracy proponents - including outspoken activists Joshua Wong and Jimmy Lai - following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

Under the broadly-defined security legislation, crimes such as subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism can be punished with up to life in jail.

Among those arrested on Sunday was former lawmaker Eddie Chu.

Many struck a cautiously defiant tone as they prepared to report to police on Sunday to hear the charges.

"Hong Kongers have a really tough time these days", he told reporters before entering the station.

"Democracy is never a gift from heaven".

"We have long decided not to bow our heads to totalitarian rule", said Lester Shum.

"Thank you to the people of Hong Kong for giving me the opportunity to contribute to society in the past 15 years", Mr Chu said in a post on his Facebook page.

They allegedly violated the new national security law that was imposed by Beijing for participating in unofficial election primaries for the semi-autonomous territory's legislature past year. She will appear in court on Monday, according to a post on her official Facebook page.

Many of those candidates were ultimately disqualified from standing, and authorities scrapped the election because of the coronavirus.

"Our organisation often criticises the Chinese government, and we participate in Hong Kong's democracy fight", Xing Zhong, the group's secretary-general, told Reuters.

Critics say that declaration has effectively made opposition politics in Hong Kong all but illegal.

Clifford Stott, a British academic who was hired by Hong Kong's government to sit on a short-lived advisory panel to the city's police watchdog after the democracy protests, gave a stark assessment of Sunday's charges.

"Bank accounts opened by NGOs in Hong Kong banks are in danger of being frozen at any moment", Wang said, noting that authorities in Hong Kong had blocked the accounts of leading pro-democracy activists.

But until recently, the city had a veneer of choice that allowed a small and vocal opposition to flourish at certain local elections.

On Tuesday authorities also unveiled a new law that will vet the political views of all public office holders.

Beijing enforced the law criminalising "subversive" acts a year ago, saying it was needed to bring stability.

He said that almost 3 million Hong Kong residents signed a petition in May in support of the National Security Law, while about 70 percent of its residents believe that the city enjoys more safety and greater stability since the law was implemented.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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