Hong Kong political activists plead guilty amid crackdown

Hong Kong authorities say 29 of 47 pro-democracy activists charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under a tough National Security Law have entered guilty pleas in court as Beijing’s government seeks to further silence the voices of opposition to the regional financial center.

The proceedings came amid a wide-ranging campaign against those who spoke out against demands for absolute loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. The pleas were filed earlier but were only announced Thursday after the reporting ban was lifted. The hearings are due to begin in September, and the defendants face possible life sentences.

The 47 democracy activists, aged between 23 and 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the Beijing-imposed National Security Law and were detained last year for their involvement in a primary election unofficial in 2020 that authorities said was a plot to cripple the Hong Kong government. .

The primaries showed strong support for candidates willing to challenge the Beijing-backed local government. Among those who pleaded guilty were well-known political activists Joshua Wong and Benny Tai, Hong Kong media said. They remain in prison awaiting sentencing. Hong Kong was handed over from British rule to the Chinese in 1997 with a promise to retain its own legal, economic and social systems for 50 years.

Despite the steady deterioration of these special rights promised to the territory under a “one country, two systems” framework, it retains the British common law system, independent of Communist Party dictates that determine legal outcomes on the mainland.

About 2,000 Hong Kong residents have been detained and the main opposition newspaper Apple Daily closed since the 2019 pro-democracy protests. More have been arrested in follow-up actions, including 90-year-old Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, while political speech and public meetings have been frozen by uncertainty over where the authorities’ red lines are drawn.

China responded to the protests by imposing the sweeping National Security Law, rounding up opposition figures in the media and civil society, and reorganizing the local legislative council to ensure that only pro-Beijing figures can hold office .

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