Activists accused of organizing and participating in an unofficial primary poll which authorities say was part of a plan to “ overthrow ” the government.
After four days of marathon hearings, a Hong Kong court is expected to rule Thursday on bail applications for 47 pro-democracy activists accused of conspiracy to commit subversion, in a landmark case following the widest use to date of the National Security Act. imposed on the city by Beijing.
Ahead of the hearing, family members of detained opposition activists and politicians, along with hundreds of their supporters, lined up early outside the West Kowloon courthouse in solidarity.
Au Pui-fun, the wife of a jailed social activist and former member of the Legislative Council, told reporters in court that she was not optimistic about the outcome of her husband’s case, adding that it was a “pre-written piece”.
Labor politician Lee Cheuk-yan, another former member of the Legislative Council, was also outside the court and was quoted on social media as saying he felt “confused” by the legal system and not didn’t know what to expect next.
Candy, a 40-year-old housewife who started queuing early in the morning with her two children, said her presence was her “statement of support” for the activists.
“The children wanted to come,” she told Reuters news agency.
What is happening in Hong Kong Magistrates’ Court regarding bail hearings for the 47 Democratic politicians is already an unthinkable mockery of justice and is apparently poised to escalate. Read more on my blog.https://t.co/Y48fo01GGG
– Jérôme Cohen 孔杰荣 (柯恩) (@jeromeacohen) March 4, 2021
The court is also considering the media’s request to lift reporting restrictions on the bail process.
Foreign diplomats and human rights groups are also keeping a close watch on the case as concerns build over the dying dissent space in the former British colony, which has taken a turn. quick authoritarian since the law was imposed in June 2020.
The hearings were held late at night for three consecutive days, causing the illness of several defendants and their transfer to hospital.
Burden of accused
A number of defendants fired their legal representatives and planned to add more testimony to their court submissions. Hong Kong laws limit media coverage of the content of bail hearings.
Contrary to the territory’s common law traditions, the new security law requires defendants to prove that they will not pose a security threat if released on bail.
The men and women, aged 23 to 64, are accused of organizing and participating in an unofficial primary poll last July which authorities say was part of a plan to “overthrow” the government.
The vote, in which not all of the defendants were winners, aimed to select the strongest opposition candidates for a legislative council election which the government then postponed, citing the coronavirus.
The detentions have been sharply criticized by Western governments, especially in Britain and the United States.
Supporters of the Security Act, which punishes what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life in prison, say the legislation was necessary to restore stability in Hong Kong after months of pro-democracy protests in 2019..
Those charged included primary election organizer and former law professor Benny Tai, as well as prominent democracy activists Lester Shum, Joshua Wong, Owen Chow, Wu Chi-wai and Sam Cheung.