03/01/2021, 16.47
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Forty-seven pro-democracy activists indicted and jailed for 'subversion'

The accused were arrested in January for organising and taking part in a primary held in July 2020 designed to win the upcoming election. Card Joseph Zen and Lee Cheuk-yan were present in the courthouse where the accused were arraigned. For US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes.” Beijing wants to severely punish Jimmy Lai, Benni Tai and Joshua Wong.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Forty-seven pro-democracy activists have been indicted and jailed in Hong Kong on charges of conspiring to commit subversive acts.

Prosecutors claim that the unofficial primary poll they organised and took part in last summer constituted a plot to overthrow the Hong Kong government under Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The indictment was presented today at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday. The people detained are part of a group of 53 people arrested in January for violating China’s national security law.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse to demand the defendants’ release. This was the largest public gathering since last summer.

Some pro-democracy supporters shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which is subversive for the authorities.

Police ordered the protesters to disperse, waving the purple flag, which they use to warn protesters that they are violating national security law; a blue one indicates that they are taking part in an unauthorised public meeting.

Many pro-democracy leaders tried to attend the hearing, including the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong Card Joseph Zen, long-time pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, and student leaders Tommy Cheung and Ernie Chow.

Diplomats from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union were unable to enter the courtroom.

Deputy Head of Office at the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macao Charles Whiteley expressed concern over the indictments.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for the immediate release of those arrested. In a tweet he said that “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes.”

Some observers point out that the indictment does not explain how exercising rights recognised under Hong Kong’s Basic Law can constitute the crime of subversion.

For Civil Human Rights Front convenor Figo Chan Ho-wun, the authorities went beyond “white terror” with the national security law. Now “It’s downright suppression”.

The 47 accused were jailed earlier this year and released on bail on 8 January. Their fault is trying to get 35 or more anti-government candidates elected in Hong Kong’s parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2020 (later postponed) in order to have the numbers to block the budget law and force Lam to resign.

In July 2020, all those arrested took part in or helped organise a pro-democracy primary designed to contribute to the upcoming elections to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).

One of those arrested is lawyer Benny Tai, who spearheaded the primary and the "35-plus" campaign, which was supposed to guarantee the opposition a majority in the LegCo.

Tai, along with pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai  and activist Joshua Wong, both already in prison, is considered an enemy by Hong Kong and Chinese authorities.

Xia Baolong, head of the Chinese Office for Macao and Hong Kong Affairs, told pro-Beijing magazine Bauhinia, that the three pro-democracy leaders are "anti-China" who “need to be punished severely”.

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