Hong Kong court finds 14 of 16 democracy activists guilty of subversion | Court News


HISTORY IN DEVELOPMENT,

Two people acquitted in a historic national security trial against democracy activists and politicians.

A Hong Kong court found 14 of 16 activists and politicians guilty of subversion in the largest trial ever held in the Chinese territory under the national security law imposed by Beijing.

The judges, appointed to hear cases brought under the 2020 security law, which does not allow jury trials, shared the reasoning for their decision in a 319-page document that was posted online.

The group was among 47 people, including some of Hong Kong's most prominent democracy supporters, charged during an unofficial 2020 primary to choose candidates for a Legislative Council election that was later postponed.

Many of them have been detained since they were arrested before dawn in January 2021.

Two of the defendants (lawyer and former district councilor Laurence Lau and social worker and former district councilor Lee Yue-shun) were acquitted, making them the first people to be acquitted of charges related to the national security law since the legislation went into effect almost four years ago. . Lau, one of the few defendants granted bail, organized his own defense.

The remaining defendants pleaded guilty.

There was a heavy police presence outside the court as people queued to enter. The debate was suspended until 2:30 p.m. (06:30 GMT).

The trial will now move into its sentencing and mitigation phase when the judges will consider the circumstances of each defendant.

Experts previously told Al Jazeera that the process could last up to six months, and that any defendant released on bail could have their process revoked.

Those considered “main offenders” or identified as leaders face a maximum penalty of life in prison under the security law. Lower-level “offenders” could be sentenced to between three and 10 years for “active” participation, while “other participants” could receive up to three years in prison.

Pleading guilty generally gives defendants a reduced sentence, but it is unclear whether the national security court will follow the convention.

The 47 range in age from 20 to 60 and include some of Hong Kong's most high-profile opposition figures, including Benny Tai, 59, a jurist and one of the alleged organisers; democracy activist Joshua Wong, 27; former journalist and legislator Claudia Mo, 67; and lifelong activist Leung Kwok-hung, 68, popularly known as “Long Hair.”

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