09/22/2022, 12.38
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Hong Kong: Lai and other imprisoned democrats still awaiting trial

There are 1,121 political prisoners in the former British colony. Proceedings against the Catholic media tycoon will open on 1 December. Ongoing trial for Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan. For jurist Benny Tai there is no precise date. Trail of Card. Joseph Zen postponed again.

 

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - There are 1,121 political prisoners in the former British colony, according to the latest in figures updated by the Hong Kong Democracy Council on 29th August. They include leaders of NGOs, trade unions and protest groups, as well as journalists, activists, teachers, students, opposition politicians and lawyers.

Many of them are well-known figures from the democratic front, such as the Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Already convicted for taking part in unauthorised demonstrations, the founder of the independent newspaper Apple Daily (which has been closed for some time) will be on trial from 1 December for the much more serious charge of threatening national security.

Together with other activists and contributors, Lai is charged with 'collusion with foreign forces', a crime under the draconian security law imposed by Beijing in 2020. The high court trial is expected to last more than 30 days: the democratic tycoon faces life imprisonment.

More than 1,000 citizens are on trial on politically motivated charges. Many are already in jail, and most are indicted for threats to national security, sedition and riots.

Three former leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which used to organise the traditional vigil on 4 June every year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, are on trial: the group disbanded a year ago after an investigation was opened against it. The charge for Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Chow Hang-tung is 'inciting subversion' under the Security Act. Arrested in September 2021, Ho is free on bail, while Lee and Chow are in pre-trial detention.

Still in prison and awaiting a trial date are 34 of the 47 democrats arrested last year for organising primary elections for the renewal of the Legco (the city parliament) originally scheduled for September 2020.

At least 29 of them are set to plead guilty to the crime of subversion, including jurist Benny Tai, one of the leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central movement, and well-known pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong: both are already in prison.

The crackdown imposed by the city authorities after the 2019 demonstrations, especially with the adoption in 2020 of the National Security Law imposed by Beijing, has in fact restricted, suspended or cancelled the rights of assembly, association, expression and political participation.

Not even figures such as Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, accused along with five other pro-democracy figures of incorrectly registering a humanitarian fund of which they were trustees. The trial which was due to open yesterday at the West Kowloon Court, was postponed by two days due to Judge Ada Yim Shun-yee testing positive for Covid-19. In the list of daily cases of the court in question, however, there are no hearings with Card. Zen on September 21, or today or tomorrow.

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