47 Democrats charged over primary election still in jail. EU launches attack

Decision on whether to transfer the trial to the High Court postponed to September.  Defendants risk life imprisonment. EU parliamentarians condemn the forced closure of Apple Daily and call for sanctions against Beijing and its leaders. They also called for the abolition of the security law.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The pre-trial detention of 47 activists arrested in February for organising or taking part in the Democratic Front primaries a year ago has been extended.

Yesterday, Judge Victor Soe of the Magistrates' Court in West Kowloon postponed until September 23 a decision on whether to grant the prosecution's request to refer the case to the High Court, which has jurisdiction over more serious offences. The prosecution had asked for more time to prepare the case at this preliminary stage: Judge Soe's green light further delays the start of the actual proceedings.

With the transfer of the trial to the High Court, the accused risk life imprisonment. Only 12 of them were granted bail. The others are still in prison cells, including prominent figures such as Jimmy Lai, Benny Tai and Joshua Wong.

In July 2020, the democratic camp held internal elections to choose its candidates for the September legislative elections (which were later postponed). The 47 defendants are on trial on charges of subversion under Beijing's national security law. Under the indictment, by aiming to secure 35 or more seats in the Legco (the city parliament) for the Democrats, the organisers "plotted" to overthrow Carrie Lam's government.

The European Union is becoming increasingly vocal in its criticism of the draconian measure. Yesterday, with 578 votes in favour and 29 against, the EU Parliament passed a resolution condemning the (forced) closure of Apple Daily. The pro-democracy newspaper closed on 24 June: accused of threatening national security, it suffered a series of arrests and the freezing of assets worth HK million (€1.9 million). According to EU MEPs, the action against the newspaper is a further step by the Chinese authorities to dismantle traditional freedoms in the former British colony.

The European Parliament calls on the leadership in Beijing and Hong Kong to stop the mistreatment and intimidation of journalists, and to abolish the security law. Meanwhile, it encourages EU countries to impose sanctions on leaders and entities responsible for serious violations of human rights and international law in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Xia Baolong, Director of the China Macao and Hong Kong Affairs Office, are at the top of the list of personalities to be sanctioned.

MEPs are also calling on member state governments not to send their representatives and diplomats to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The request has already been rejected by the Greek executive. The resolution has no binding force and is a guideline for the European Council and the EU Commission. Hungary, which has close ties with Beijing like Greece, has already scuttled a joint sanctions plan over the situation in Hong Kong. Without a change of direction from China, the EU Parliament will continue to block the approval process of the investment agreement signed in December by EU and Chinese authorities.