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Hong Kong Court Convicts 14 Democracy Activists In Major National Security Case

A Hong Kong court has convicted 14 democracy activists of subversion in the largest national security case since 2020.

A Hong Kong court has convicted 14 democracy activists of subversion and acquitted two others in the largest national security case since the law’s enactment.

This case involved 47 individuals charged in 2021 for allegedly attempting to “overthrow” the government by organizing an unofficial election. Of those charged, only 16 pleaded not guilty.

The convicted activists, ranging from veteran politicians to student campaigners, represent a broad spectrum of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Their arrest marked the most significant crackdown under the National Security Law (NSL), which Beijing imposed in 2020.

While Beijing claims the law is vital for Hong Kong’s stability, rights groups argue it has severely curtailed civil liberties and fostered a climate of fear.

Three High Court judges found the 14 pro-democracy figures guilty of planning to undermine Hong Kong’s legislature if elected, based on their involvement in an unofficial primary election in 2020.

Two defendants—a social worker and a barrister who represented himself—were acquitted. The remaining 31 defendants had already pleaded guilty before today’s hearing, bringing the total number of convictions in this case to 45.

Rights groups condemned the verdict, accusing the judges of showing “utter contempt for both democratic political processes and the rule of law.” They maintained that the defendants had the right to run for political office.

However, the court sided with prosecutors, ruling that the election of these democracy campaigners would have posed a national security risk and potentially caused a “constitutional crisis.”

Thursday’s ruling follows a marathon trial lasting over 100 days, which began in February 2023. Many of the defendants have been held in pre-detention since their arrests in 2021. The verdict was delivered under tight security, with many supporters of the defendants in attendance.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong expressed deep concern over the conviction of the 14 pro-democracy activists, including Australian citizen Gordon Ng. She stated that Australia has strongly objected to Hong Kong’s broad application of national security legislation to suppress pro-democracy figures, opposition groups, media, trade unions, and civil society.

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