Convictions of 14 Hong Kong rights activists expose Beijing’s contempt for democracy

China’s intention of imposing the controversial National Security Law in Hong Kong has again become clear as daylight after the city convicted 14 activists in the largest-yet National Security trial.


Recently, a Hong Kong court has convicted 14 pro-democracy activists and former elected officials, including an Australian citizen, under the draconian National Security Law, which was imposed by Beijing in 2020 to punish critics and silence dissenters as described by the human rights groups.


According to a report by The Epoch Times, all of them were charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion,” and included former elected politicians, protest leaders, labour organisers, and academics, ranging in age from 26 to 68, and many have been in pretrial detention since their arrests in January 2021.

Earlier, 31 other defendants had pleaded guilty, hoping for more lenient sentences, as per reports.

The newspaper reported that the prosecution named five defendants as “major organisers,” suggesting possible harsh sentences of up to life in prison.

Of the five, only one pleaded not guilty and was subsequently convicted, while another had pleaded guilty earlier, and the remaining three became prosecution witnesses in exchange for lighter sentences, and two former district councillors were acquitted, as reported by The Epoch Times.

According to reports, the defendants either helped organise or were candidates in a July 2020 informal public opinion poll—effectively an unofficial primary election—to select pro-democracy candidates for a coming legislative election.


The Hong Kong court, in its verdict, said that the defendants’ plan amounted to “seriously interfering in, disrupting or undermining the performance of duties and functions” of the government by “unlawful means,” which constituted “state subversion,” and crucially, the judges found that “unlawful means” were not limited to criminal acts.


Global human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have harshly criticised the move by Hong Kong under the National Security Law, using which China has been cracking down on Hong Kong’s freedoms, stoking mass protests in the city and drawing international criticism.


The international human rights bodies alleged all three judges at the trial were “handpicked by the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong chief executive.”


Describing the prosecution of an Australian citizen under the law, Human Rights Watch said authorities in Hong Kong had violated international due process standards, including prolonged pretrial detention and the denial of a jury trial, and they have also repeatedly refused the Australian citizen’s consular access as required by international law.


Human Rights Watch called on the Australian government to join the United States, which to date is the only country that has imposed targeted sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials following the imposition of the National Security Law.

Commenting on the matter, Human Rights Watch’s China director Maya Wang said, “Governments around the world should support those in Hong Kong who stand firm on the front line in the struggle for democracy and human rights.”


“Hong Kong’s mass show trial lays bare Beijing’s utter contempt for fundamental freedoms and democratic political processes,” Maya Wang said.

“The Hong Kong government needs to quash the convictions of these activists and fulfil its legal obligations to protect the rights of the Hong Kong people, including their right to freely elect their government,” she added.


Amnesty International’s China Director Sarah Brooks warned that this unprecedented mass conviction is the most ruthless illustration yet of how Hong Kong’s National Security Law is weaponized to silence dissent.


“It represents a near-total purge of the political opposition and highlights the rapid disintegration of human rights in Hong Kong,” Brooks said, adding that these convictions also send a “chilling message” to anyone else in Hong Kong who opposes the actions of the government, namely: “stay quiet, or face jail.”


Meanwhile, the United States Department of State, in a statement, said the US is deeply concerned by the “guilty verdicts” announced in the National Security Law trial of pro-democracy organizers in Hong Kong, adding that Department of State is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on China and Hong Kong officials responsible for implementing the National Security Law, pursuant to Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.


“The defendants were subjected to a politically motivated prosecution and jailed simply for peacefully participating in political activities protected under the Basic Law of Hong Kong,” the US DoS said in the statement.


“Instead of imposing harsh sentences that would further erode confidence in Hong Kong’s judicial system, Hong Kong authorities should immediately release these unjustly detained individuals,” it added.








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