Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s largest national security trial has opened with dozens of pro-democracy figures accused of trying to topple the government.
The 47 defendants, who include some of the city’s most prominent activists, face up to life in prison if convicted.
Sixteen have pleaded not guilty to charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion” over an unofficial primary election.
The other 31 have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced after the trial.
A rare, small protest erupted before the court convened yesterday, despite the large police presence.Most of the defendants have already spent nearly two years behind bars. They now face proceedings expected to last more than four months, overseen by judges handpicked by the government.
The case is the largest to date under the national security law, which China imposed on Hong Kong after huge democracy protests in 2019 brought tear gas and police brawls onto the streets of the Asian financial hub.
More than 100 people had queued outside the court, some overnight, hoping to see the trial begin yesterday. Those on trial represent a cross-section of Hong Kong’s opposition – including activists Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, professor Benny Tai and former lawmakers Claudia Mo and Au Nok-hin.
Most – 34 out of 47 – have been denied bail while the few released must abide by strict conditions, including speech restrictions.
The group was jointly charged in March 2021 after organising an unofficial primary a year earlier.
Their stated aim was to win a majority in the city’s legislature, which would allow them to push the protesters’ demands and potentially force the resignation of Hong Kong’s leader.
According to prosecutors, this was tantamount to trying to bring down the government.
“This case involves a group of activists who conspired together and with others to plan, organise and participate in seriously interfering in, disrupting or undermining (the government) ... with a view to subverting the State power,” the prosecution said in its opening statement. — AFP