Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court held a court hearing on Monday (May 31) for 47 activists who participated in the party primaries organized by the pan-democratic camp last year. The prosecution charged them with “conspiracy to subvert state power”. If the charges are confirmed, the activists will face severe punishment.
This is the largest legal action taken against the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong since the enactment of the national security law in June last year.
The campaign was organized by the Hong Kong pro-democracy camp last July to ensure that the winner of the internal primary election would secure a majority of seats in the September Legislative Council election. This event attracted over 600,000 voters and had a huge social effect on raising the social influence of the pan-democratic camp.
However, the Hong Kong police accused the pro-democracy activists of violating the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law and allegedly committing “subversion of state power”.
Earlier this year, more than 50 activists and other related individuals were arrested by the police for participating in the primary election. After months of preparation, a Hong Kong court held a hearing on the case on Monday.
The defendants argued that the primary election was a normal political event held by the opposition party. According to the Hong Kong Basic Law, Hong Kong will retain its capitalist system after its return to China, which is different from that of mainland China. The opposition party is an important part of that system.
The Hong Kong authorities consider the primary election an illegal political activity under national security laws, a “malicious conspiracy” aimed at capturing the majority of the Hong Kong Legislative Council in order to control and paralyze it.
On Monday, the 47 activists appeared in court en masse. AFP said the charges brought by the prosecution against the activists, if found, would carry a minimum sentence of seven years in prison and a life sentence under national security laws.
In 2019, Hong Kong people embarked on a massive anti-China transfer protest and demonstration, involving millions of people, that lasted for six months because of their opposition to the Hong Kong government’s amendment of the relevant ordinance to establish a bilateral extradition mechanism with mainland China. It is believed that this political activity caused the highest authorities of the Chinese Communist Party to be outraged, and they are determined to implement a national security law in Hong Kong to provide a legal basis for the total suppression of the pro-democracy camp.
But observers point out that this move by the Chinese Communist Party is a serious departure from the international commitments it made regarding Hong Kong’s reunification, and fundamentally changes the basic principles of one country, two systems and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.
The judge in the case announced Monday that the next court session will be July 8. All defendants will have until June 28 to receive evidence from the prosecution in relation to the charges so that they can defend themselves at the next court hearing.
The next court hearing will be held at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court. After that, the case will be transferred to the High Court of Hong Kong, which has the power to impose heavy sentences, for trial.
The defendants’ lawyers suggested that the time between the receipt of the evidence and the next court hearing is only about a week, which is apparently not enough for the defendants to prepare their defense. The lawyers said that the national security law is a new statute for Hong Kong and that the defendant needs more time to analyze the evidence and wanted the judge to extend the time for the defense to prepare its defense.
But the request was denied by the judge. Presiding Judge Victor So Wa-tak said the seven-day preparation period was required by law.
On the same day as the court hearing, Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a director of the National Association for the Study of Hong Kong and Macau, published an article in the Hong Kong media asking the government to cancel the Hong Kong pan-democratic organization “Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China” in accordance with the national security law and to delete the content of its platform about “ending one-party dictatorship. “The article said that if the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) does not comply with the National Security Law, it will be abolished. The article said that if the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China does not comply, it should be banned according to the law.
According to the article, the Chinese Constitution defines the leadership system of the Communist Party of China as the fundamental system of the People’s Republic of China, which is “the most essential characteristic of Chinese socialism. The “end of one-party dictatorship” contained in the platform of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) is clearly subversive, and is “suspected of being unconstitutional and illegal”.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) was founded in 1989 after the June 4 Incident, and over the years, the organization has persistently organized and held annual candlelight activities to commemorate the June 4 Incident. These activities have played an important role in raising awareness of the June 4 tragedy among people around the world and perpetuating the June 4 spirit.
On June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party mobilized hundreds of thousands of field troops in a multi-pronged attack on Tiananmen Square, massacring students and civilians who insisted on demonstrating peacefully in the square. Officially, more than two hundred people died during the “clearing” process. But unofficially, at least 2,000 students and civilians were killed. The June 4 incident was a major event in China’s reform and opening-up process. After June 4, the U.S. and other Western countries imposed sanctions on China on a number of fronts, and the familiar U.S. controls on technology and arms exports to China began at that time.