HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong authorities say 29 of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under a strict national security law pleaded guilty on Thursday, as the Beijing’s government is seeking to further silence opposition voices in the regional financial hub.
Thursday’s legal proceedings unfolded amid a broad campaign against those who oppose demands for absolute loyalty to China’s ruling Communist Party.
The 47 democracy activists, aged 23 to 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under Beijing’s national security law and detained last year for their involvement in a primary election unofficial in 2020 which authorities say was a plot to cripple the Hong Kong government. . The primary showed strong support for candidates willing to challenge the Beijing-backed local government.
Among those who pleaded guilty were well-known political activists, including Joshua Wong and Benny Tai, Hong Kong media said.
Media reporting restrictions have been lifted for the cases, which will begin next month in Hong Kong’s High Court.
Hong Kong moved from British rule to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that it would retain its own legal, economic and social systems for 50 years.
Despite the steady deterioration of those special rights promised to the territory under the “one country, two systems”, it retains the British common law system, independent of the dictates of the Communist Party that determine legal outcomes on the Continent.
At Thursday’s hearing, Wong, who remains in detention, said the primary election gave Hong Kongers a chance to express their political will.
“Our vote is our voice, to be heard in the global community,” Wong said.
Around 2,000 Hong Kong residents have been detained and the main opposition newspaper Apple Daily has been closed since the 2019 pro-democracy protests. Others have been arrested for the actions that followed, including Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen , 90, while political speeches and public rallies have been frozen by uncertainty over the location of authorities’ red lines.
China has responded to the protests by imposing the sweeping national security law, rounding up opposition figures in the media and civil society, and revamping the local legislative council to ensure that only pro-Beijing figures can hold office.