Hong Kong’s largest trial under its sweeping national security law began on Monday after two years of delay, with 47 of the city’s most prominent pro-democracy activists facing up to life imprisonment.
The defendants include some of the territory’s highest-profile politicians and campaigners, who were arrested in January 2021 in the single largest raid made by police in a national security case.
Critics have described the arrests as a politically motivated campaign to wipe out Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy parties and eradicate opposition voices, part of a wider crackdown on the territory’s freedoms and civil society.
The 47 defendants include activist Joshua Wong, former Agence France-Presse journalist-turned-lawmaker Claudia Mo, social activist and League of Social Democrats co-founder “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and former BBC Chinese journalist Gwyneth Ho. At least 90 days have been earmarked for the non-jury trial.
They were charged with conspiring to subvert state power under the security law by organising or participating in an informal primary election among the opposition camp in July 2020.
More than 600,000 people cast their votes in the unofficial election, which the prosecution has accusing the defendants of using to “paralyse” the Hong Kong government and win a majority of votes in the legislature.
Three members of the LSD, one of the city’s last remaining active opposition factions, called for the defendant’s release from outside the courtroom on Monday before being dispersed by police.