The Hong Kong court on Thursday ruled to detain 47 pro-democracy activists after four days of hearings in a case that raised concerns about Beijing’s crackdown on dissidents and allegations of accumulated rights violations.
The 47 activists are accused of organizing and participating in an informal primary vote in July last year, in a bid to select the strongest candidates for election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Of the total, only 15 had bail applications granted by Judge Victor So, but were jailed after prosecutors said they would appeal the decision.
A stage of protests this week, as hundreds of protesters rallied in action against the detention of activists, West Kowloon court has now made people cry inside courtrooms and other protests , although quieter, outside.
“We are not surprised by the failure of today’s bail request,” said Po-ying Chan, wife of Leung Kowk-hung, a former parliamentarian and veteran activist in the now pro-democracy movement. accused of subversion.
“It proved that according to the National Security Law, the legal system has been distorted and upset,” Chan said.
The legislation, enacted by Beijing last year, authorizes the crackdown on four types of crimes against state security: subversive activities, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with penalties that can lead to life imprisonment.
According to Hong Kong officials, campaigning to try to win a majority of the 70-seat Legislative Council in order to block government proposals and increase pressure for democratic reform can be seen as a subversive act.
The council has 70 members, appointed on the basis of a complex system that almost automatically grants a majority to Beijing’s friendly bloc. Only 35 deputies are elected by direct ballot, and the rest are nominated by groups aligned with China.
Foreign diplomats and human rights groups are watching the case closely as concerns over the loss of dissent space in the former British colony, which has taken an authoritarian turn since the imposition of the new law, have increased.
Bail hearings for the 47 activists lasted late into the night for three consecutive days. It was reported that the accused could not eat or sleep, and some of them were ill and required medical treatment.
The 15 people whose application for release has been granted will undergo a new hearing within 48 hours of the decision, due to the appellants’ appeal. The other 32, including law professor and former organizer Benny Tai and well-known names in the pro-democracy movement such as former lawmaker Lester Shum, young candidate Owen Chow and prominent Joshua Wong, will remain in detention until ‘at the trial scheduled for May 31. .
According to the indictment against the 47 activists, the primaries – which numbered around 600,000 voters – were part of a plan to overthrow the government.
Combined with the veto of the candidacies of 12 of the city’s main Democratic politicians and the postponement of the elections that followed, the lawsuit against the activists has been interpreted as another sign of the authoritarian trajectory imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing.