A macro-trial against the democratic opposition begins in Hong Kong | International

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Hong Kong is holding a macro-trial against 47 opponents this Monday, in one of those cases that will be remembered for marking the final line between the end of one era and the beginning of another. The defendants are a heterogeneous group of politicians, academics, journalists and activists detained two years ago on suspicion of subversion under the articles of the National Security Law approved by Beijing in 2020 and face possible sentences up to life imprisonment. The episode, directed against organizers and participants of an unofficial primary election, became at the time the largest raid against the pro-democracy movement on the island since the 2019 protests began.

Of the 55 arrested in January 2021, 47 were finally indicted shortly after on charges of "conspiracy to subvert the power of the State" and can be sentenced to life imprisonment for organizing or participating in that vote, in which some 600,000 votes were cast. . The intention was to enter the Legislative Assembly with a unitary opposition formation, whose seats today are dominated by pro-Beijing parties. But the Hong Kong Prosecutor's Office estimates that they wanted to "paralyze" the Hong Kong Government through a "vicious plan".

"It is not a crime to act against a totalitarian regime," defendant and former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung said in court on Monday, according to the Reuters agency. In the opening statement, prosecutor Anthony Chau said: "This case involves a group of activists who conspired together and with others to plan, organize and participate in seriously interfering with, disrupting or undermining the performance of duties and functions (...) by illegal means with a view to subverting the power of the State”.

Among the 47 defendants are prominent figures of the democratic resistance in Hong Kong, suffocated after the iron enforcement of security regulations seasoned with the long period of pandemic isolation: Wu Chi-wai, 60, former secretary general of the Democratic Party; Gwyneth Ho, 32, a reporter who has been documenting the 2019 protests on the front lines; Au Nok-hin, 35, organizer of the electoral call; Benny Tai, 58, one of the ideologues of the mobilizations that gave rise to the so-called 2014 umbrella protest, as well as a promoter of the primaries; or the prominent activist Joshua Wong, 26.

A good part of the defendants (34) have spent these two years in detention; 31 of them have confessed guilty to the facts. Some legal experts attribute the move to the pressure of facing lengthy detentions and a legal machinery that Western capitals and human rights activists are calling into question.

Last week, the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders wrote a letter to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on the occasion of his planned visit to Beijing (suspended due to the spy balloon crisis), in which he denounced the lack of “independence” of the Hong Kong courts and was protesting the case of the 47 defendants, as well as other recent court cases against activists and protesters: “In these mass trials,” the letter states, “little attention is paid to the allegations of made against individual defendants and many have been found guilty and sentenced to years in prison for the simple fact of being inappropriately dressed near a confrontation in the protests or for having pro-democratic political beliefs”.

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The NGO also recalls the case of Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media magnate, sentenced in December to five years for fraud and still awaiting another trial for collusion with foreign forces. Your post, AppleDaily, It was considered for years an opposition voice, but it was forced to close in June 2021 when its accounts were frozen and senior newspaper officials were also arrested under the National Security Law.

Following the arrests, in January 2021, the European Union called for the immediate release of the detainees. Peter Stano, Foreign Affairs spokesman for the European Commission, said the arrests indicated that "political pluralism is no longer tolerated in Hong Kong" and that the security law is used "to crush dissent and stifle human rights and freedoms." policies”. Soon after, the European Parliament called for the imposition of sanctions against Hong Kong and senior Chinese officials.

turn off dissent

The National Security Law was processed and passed at lightning speed in June 2020 by the National People's Congress (the Chinese Parliament) with the intention of defusing dissent in Hong Kong. The rule provides for life imprisonment for those who plan "terrorist", "seditious" or "subversive" activities and its promulgation marked a turning point in the legal architecture of the international financial center since it ceased to be a British colony and China regained its sovereignty. in 1997. Critics of the norm assure that it curtails the freedoms that mainland China promised to guarantee until 2047 in the autonomous territory.

Beijing considers, instead, that the metamorphosis of recent years has allowed pacification after a tumultuous period. “On my visit to Hong Kong [en junio de 2022] I was very happy to see that Hong Kong has restored order and is about to prosper again," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his traditional New Year's Eve speech on December 31. "It must not fall back into chaos," said the leader on that visit to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the enclave's return to Chinese sovereignty.

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