03/03/2021, 16.40
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The trial of 47 pro-democracy activists marks the end of political pluralism in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities want to strike a blow at pro-democracy moderates, says Ernest Ng, expert in public policy. The 47 are back in court tomorrow. Freedom of association and the right to organise under International Labour Convention have been violated. Restrictions are expected for Hong Kong’s election law.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Political pluralism is no longer tolerated in Hong Kong, this according to Ernest Ng, an expert in public policy.

The trial currently underway at the West Kowloon Courts Building involving 47 pro-democracy advocates accused of violating the law on national security is a case in point.

Ominously, “those 47 pro-democracy figures” include people who “are neither radical nor advocates of Hong Kong independence,” Ng told AsiaNews. Many belong to “parties like the Democratic Party and Civic Party, [which] have long been regarded as moderates in the pro-democracy camp.”

Chief magistrate Victor So adjourned the hearing at around 8:30 pm today to 10 am tomorrow morning, after learning that some defendants would like to make additional submissions.

The court case has been going on for the past three days. The 47, part of a group of 53 people arrested for the first time in January, are charged with one count of “conspiring to commit subversion”.

The violation allegedly occurred when they organised and took part in a primary elections in July 2020 designed to select pro-democracy candidates for the upcoming September 2020 election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), which was later postponed.

According to the authorities, if the pro-democracy activists compete in the elections in order to win a majority in the LegCo, they are committing a crime.

Meanwhile, defence lawyers have complained of the treatment inflicted upon their clients after their arrest on 28 February.

As a result of marathon hearings, the accused have been prevented from resting and washing, and many have had to be hospitalised as a result of exhaustion.

Defence lawyers have also asked that journalists be allowed inside the courtroom in order to inform the public on how national security cases are being handled.

Based on the latest developments, it appears that Beijing is taking control of Hong Kong’s affairs. With the new law, “there is plenty of room for Hong Kong and the Chinese government to interpret what kind of activities is challenging national security,” Ng said.

The 47 accused include two union leaders, Carol Ng, head of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, and Winnie Yu, chairwoman of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance (HAEA).

For the China Labour Bulletin, their arrest is contrary to the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which China has not yet ratified.

It should be noted that the recent investment agreement between the European Union and China is conditional on Beijing implementing the ILO conventions it has signed, and to "work on the ratification" of all the others.

Many observers are under the impression that Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing camp wants to eliminate its pro-democracy opposition once and for all.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the authorities indicted more people under the security law in February than in the previous seven months.

Another blow for the pro-democracy movement is also coming. The National People’s Congress, which opens on Friday, is expected to “reform” Hong Kong’s election law, imposing further restrictions on a system that already does not meet the standards of an established democracy in order to favour the establishment.

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