14 pro-democracy activists found guilty in Hong Kong national security case

HONG KONG (AP) — A Hong Kong court on Thursday convicted 14 of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists. A huge national security case Under a law imposed by Beijing, it has swept away public opposition.

Former lawmakers Leung Kwok-Hung, Lam Cheuk-Ting, Helena Wong and Raymond Chan are accused of conspiracy. Two defendants, former district councilors Lee Yu-shun and Lawrence Lau, were acquitted.

In 2021, 47 Democratic attorneys were prosecuted for their involvement. Unofficial primary election. Prosecutors accused them of trying to paralyze Hong Kong’s government and topple the city’s leader by securing the legislative majority needed to blindly veto budgets.

In a summary of the judgment distributed to the media, the court said that the election participants “have actively used or will use the power conferred by (the Basic Law) (Legislature) to ban budgets.”

Raymond Chan, a former pro-democracy lawmaker, arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrate's Court in Hong Kong on Thursday, May 30, 2024.  (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

Former pro-democracy lawmaker Helena Wong arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

According to the Basic Law, the Chief Secretary can dissolve the legislature if the budget cannot be passed, but the president must resign if the budget is again vetoed by the newly constituted legislature.

In the exhaustive 319-page judgment, the court also said that if the plan to veto bills led to the dissolution of the legislature, “implementation of any new government policies would be seriously hampered and essentially stopped.”

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“The power and authority of both the Government and the Chief Executive will be greatly undermined,” the court said in the judgment. “In our view … that would create a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong.”

The judges concluded that “unlawful means” were not limited to criminal acts and the state did not need to prove that the accused knew they were “unlawful”.

Court was adjourned until late Thursday, and Judge Andrew Chan did not give further details of the court’s reasoning.

Lau, who was acquitted in the case, told reporters that he should not focus on the other defendants in the case to warrant public attention and love.

If there is any “star” in the case, the judgment must be “star” because it sets out the logic and perspective of the judges. “It’s part of our law,” he said.

The court acquitted Lau after finding that he had not mentioned vetoing the budget in his election campaign.

Lee, the other defendant who was found not guilty, thanked the public for caring about the case over the past few years. He said he could not say more about the verdict as the prosecution may appeal against his release.

“I feel as calm as ever,” he said. In an earlier Facebook post, Thursday was like a special graduation party for her, although graduation is usually about sharing joy with family and friends.

“It perhaps best reflects the general helplessness of our generation,” he said in his post on Wednesday.

Former pro-democracy district councilor Lee Yu-shun leaves the West Kowloon Magistrate's Court in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 30, 2024. A Hong Kong court on Thursday convicted 14 pro-democracy activists in the city's biggest national security case.  A law imposed by Beijing has swept away public opposition.  Those found guilty include former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Lam Cheuk-ting, Helena Wong and Raymond Chan.  But three judges appointed by the government to oversee the case acquitted former district councilors Lee and Lawrence Lau.  (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

Former pro-democracy district councilor Lee Yu-shun leaves the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

Lee, like Law, has found no evidence that he indicated that he vetoed the election forum, nor did he personally express his position on using veto power to force the government to accede to the protesters’ demands.

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Lee – a member of the then-defunct Civic Party – adopted a similar political platform as other party members, the court taking into account that he was a latecomer to the party’s primary campaign and had no choice. But the platform used by others should be accepted. Therefore, the court said in the judgment that it cannot be established that he intended to subvert the state authority.

Observers said the vice-chancellor’s case illustrates how the security law is being used Political opposition must be suppressed Following massive anti-government protests in 2019. But the Beijing and Hong Kong governments insisted the law helped restore stability in the city and protected judicial independence.

When Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, Beijing promised to retain the city’s Western-style civil liberties for 50 years. However, since the introduction of the 2020 law, Hong Kong authorities have severely limited free speech and assembly under the pretext of maintaining national security. Many activists were arrested, silenced or self-imposed. Dozens of civil society groups were disbanded.

The main lawsuit brought legal scholars Penny Tai, former student president Joshua Wong and a dozen former lawmakers including Leung Kwak-hung and Claudia Mo.

31 of them, including Tai, Wong and Mo, pleaded guilty. Conspiracy of subjugation. They have a better chance of a shorter prison sentence and will be sentenced at a later date.

Sixteen, including Leung, pleaded not guilty and were given a non-jury trial. After Thursday’s verdict, mitigation hearings will be scheduled to determine the sentences of those convicted.

Members of the Social Democratic Party hold a banner outside the West Kowloon Magistrate's Court in Hong Kong, ahead of a ruling in a national security case, Thursday, May 30, 2024.  The banner reads "Exercising constitutional rights is not a crime." (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

Members of the Social Democratic Party hold a banner outside the West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 30, 2024, ahead of a ruling in a national security case. “Exercising constitutional rights is not a crime,” the banner reads. (AP Photo/Chan Long Hai)

On Thursday, ahead of a court hearing, Chan Bo-ying, head of the pro-democracy political party League of Social Democrats, and three other LSD members were arrested in court, according to a Facebook post by party member Figo Chan. Chan Bo-ying is also the wife of former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, one of the defendants convicted on Thursday.

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Reports from local media such as the South China Morning Post said that as those arrested walked into the court grounds, they attempted to protest carrying a yellow banner, but were stopped and taken away by police.

Diplomats from the United States, Australia and Britain, as well as dozens of residents, waited outside the police-guarded court building to secure seats to hear the verdicts.

Former Democratic Party leader Emily Law was among those who came out in support. He told reporters that it was sad that so many people had been locked up for more than three years, but declined to comment on the verdict.

Social worker Stanley Chang, a friend of one of the 16 accused, said he arrived at the site at 4am because he feared he would not get a seat. Chang said there was very little supporters could do for them and that attending the trial was a form of agency.

“I want to give some support to my friend and the faces I’ve seen in the news reports,” he said.

Maya Wang, China director of Human Rights Watch, said, “The convictions of 14 people for peaceful activism (protest) is a complete affront to both democratic political processes and the rule of law.”

“All the people of Hong Kong want is the opportunity to freely choose their government. “Democracy is not a crime, no matter what the Chinese government and its signatory Hong Kong court say,” Wang added.

Sarah Brooks of the rights group Amnesty International described it as “unprecedented” and said it was “an extremely ruthless example of how Hong Kong’s national security law has been weaponized to suppress dissent”.

“These sentences send a chilling message to anyone who opposes the government’s actions in Hong Kong: keep quiet or face jail,” he said.

The unofficial primary, which will be held in June 2020, is to list the pro-Democrat candidates who will run in the official election later. It unexpectedly attracted 610,000 voters, more than 13% of the city’s registered voters.

At the time, the pro-democracy camp hoped they could secure a legislative majority that would allow them to press for 2019 protest demands, including greater police accountability and democratic elections for mayor.

But the government postponed the primary assembly elections, citing public health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. The Electoral laws were later modified. It greatly reduces the public’s ability to vote and increases the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers in the legislature.

Beijing has also criticized the vote as a challenge to the Security Law, which criminalizes secession, sabotage and collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s affairs and terrorism.

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