A Hong Kong judge announced Thursday (July 8) that the trial of a case of “conspiracy to subvert state power” involving 47 pro-democracy activists will be postponed until Sept. 23.
According to Hong Kong media reports, 12 defendants who were granted bail in the case and 35 defendants who have been detained for four months attended the court hearing on Thursday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court in Hong Kong. Judge So Wai-tak made some changes to the bail conditions and reporting to the police for some of the people involved in the case.
The defendants in the case were charged with violating the national security law because they participated in the Legislative Council primary election held within the pro-democracy camp last year. The pro-democracy camp expected the winner to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council election and increase the pro-democracy camp’s influence in the Legislative Council.
According to the prosecution, the pro-democracy camp held this election with the aim of winning control of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, paralyzing the work of the Legislative Council, undermining the Hong Kong government’s performance of its functions, and ultimately forcing the Chief Executive to resign. The prosecution charged them with “subversion of state power. If convicted, the charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Diplomats and human rights groups have paid close attention to the case. There are concerns that the case could undermine the independence of Hong Kong’s judicial system. Judicial independence is an important pillar on which Hong Kong’s existence as an Asian financial center rests.
Hong Kong authorities have also repeatedly claimed that the judiciary in Hong Kong is independent and based on the rule of law.
The bail hearing involved in the case lasted four days in March this year, causing several defendants to fall ill and be hospitalized. Most of them had their bail applications denied. This practice has alarmed diplomats and human rights groups. They see it as a clear indication that mainland China-style authoritarian rule has been transplanted to Hong Kong.
Since the Communist Party introduced the state security law in Hong Kong a year ago, the Hong Kong government, with the support of Beijing, has launched a full-scale siege on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy faction. To date, more than 120 opposition activists, democracy activists and students have been arrested for “violating the state security law,” the youngest of whom is 15 years old.
On July 14, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was passed by both houses of Congress. On the same day, Trump also issued an executive order holding the Chinese government accountable for suppressing the rights of the people of Hong Kong to freedom.
The executive order found that China’s actions fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and pose an “extraordinary and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, foreign policy and the economy. The executive order declares a national emergency in response to this threat and suspends or revokes special and differential treatment accorded to Hong Kong under U.S. law.
On Wednesday, President Biden decided to renew for one year the national emergency order declared by President Trump regarding the situation in Hong Kong. In his proclamation, President Biden said, “The situation regarding Hong Kong, including recent actions by the People’s Republic of China that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, continues to pose an extraordinary and exceptional threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. Therefore, the national emergency declared on July 14, 2020, must continue beyond July 14, 2021.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s office in Hong Kong issued a statement Thursday accusing the U.S. of being “unrepentant and adding to its mistakes” and that China “expresses its indignation and condemnation, and expresses its strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the U.S. side’s repeated meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”