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(Source: Hong Kong Free Press)

International Community Condemn the Convictions of 14 Pro-Democratic Primary Election Candidates in Hong Kong

Hong Kong High Court found 14 pro-democracy activists guilty of subversion in the largest and most significant use to date of the draconian National Security Law. The 14 activists and politicians were convicted of “conspiracy to commit subversion” for their roles in holding an unofficial primary election in 2020 to decide who should contest city lawmaker elections. 

They were among the 47 activists charged with trying to “overthrow” the government by organizing an unofficial primary in 2020 to pick candidates who can run for office. The 47 defendants were first arrested in dawn raids on January 6, 2021 and most have been held in detention for more than three years.

The group included former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, journalist-turned-campaigner Gwyneth Ho, and ordinary Hong Kongers who joined the mass protests of 2019 such as nurse Winnie Yu. They would have “[created] a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong” if they had indeed been elected to the legislature, the court ruled on May 30, 2024.

Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who lead a U.S. congressional panel on China, criticized the Hong Kong government for “bulldozing” the freedoms and rule of law that once made the city so vital. They called on the administration of President Joe Biden to sanction judges and prosecutors responsible for these political prosecutions. “Let us be clear: The Hong Kong 47 verdicts violate international law and treaty obligations,” their statement wrote.

The conviction “marks a further deterioration of fundamental freedoms and democratic participation in Hong Kong,” the European Union’s foreign affairs office said. It added that the defendants “are being penalized for peaceful political activity that should be legitimate in any political system that respects basic democratic principles. The EU is deeply concerned about the politically motivated prosecution of the 47 pro-democracy advocates, the prolonged pre-trial detention and the denial of bail for a majority of the defendants, undermining confidence in the rule of law as enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law.”

Sarah Brooks of Amnesty International called the convictions the “most ruthless illustration yet of how Hong Kong’s National Security Law is weaponized to silence dissent. It represents a near-total purge of the political opposition and highlights the rapid disintegration of human rights in Hong Kong.” She said the convictions send a chilling message to anyone who opposes the actions of the government.

Maya Wang, the acting China director at Human Rights Watch, said “Hong Kong’s mass show trial lays bare Beijing’s utter contempt for fundamental freedoms and democratic political processes. The Hong Kong government needs to quash the convictions of these activists and fulfill its legal obligations to protect the rights of the Hong Kong people, including their right to freely elect their government.”

Anna Kwok, Executive Director of Hong Kong Democracy Council, said “Today, the Hong Kong SAR’s weaponized court determined generations of pro-democracy activists, community organizers, and politicians guilty of subversion. In reality, they are being branded criminals for exercising their innate human rights, for defending Hong Kongers’ collective freedoms, for imagining a democratic future, and for taking on the responsibility to fight for our homeland. For three years, these pro-democracy fighters have defended their ideas and affirmed their commitment to Hong Kongers’ fight in the marathon court trials. Their ideas — including Gwenyth Ho’s movement-inspired commitment to break our political stalemate and Owen Chow’s rejection of China’s colonialism in Hong Kong — should be read and remembered.”