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(Source: Reuters)

Trial of 47 People Accused Including Hong Kong’s Most Prominent Pro-Democracy Figures Begins

The long-expected national security trial of 47 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures began on February 6, 2023. They include Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists such as Joshua Wong, Benny Tai, elected lawmakers, and elected district officials. 

The group was arrested en masse in January 2021 and charged with subversion a month later for holding an unofficial primary in July 2020 (shortly after a draconian National Security Law was forced through the city’s legislature.) Only 13 of those arrested have been granted bail, while the other 34 have languished in pre-trial detention for over two years. At the West Kowloon Law Courts on Monday, 16 defendants were present to plead not guilty. All of them face sentences of up to life imprisonment.

The group, dubbed “The 47” by local media, has maintained they were merely practicing normal opposition politics. The primary election, held days after the national security law was introduced, drew an estimated 600,000 voters. The Chinese government declared the primary illegal. A Legislative Council election was held later where only those loyal to China were allowed to run for office and it reportedly drew Hong Kong’s lowest ever voter turnout.

The trial will be overseen by three handpicked judges and not a jury, which is the practice for national security law cases. It is expected to last 90 days.

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