Who are the 47 pro-democracy activists facing prison in Hong Kong?

A Hong Kong court began issuing verdicts Thursday in the cases of 47 people charged with conspiracy to commit subversion. Many of them (politicians, academics and activists) have been detained for more than three years awaiting a ruling.

The landmark case highlights the broad power of a national security law China imposed to tighten its control over the city after huge anti-government protests in 2019. Here’s a look at the people now facing what for some could be a lifetime in prison.

Benny Tai59 years old, he was a law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Joshua Wong27 years old, he became a prominent activist at 14.

Twelve were elected legislatorswho had often used their presence in the legislature to protest China’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Mo served as a legislator for eight years and is known as “Aunt Mo.”

Better known as “Long Hair,” Leung had been a pillar of the opposition for almost two decades.

Chan was Hong Kong’s first openly gay legislator.

twenty-one had been district elected officialsincluding younger activists who were voted out in the following months of anti-government protests in 2019.

Sham was the leader of an activist group that organized massive pro-democracy demonstrations throughout 2019.

Others were prominent activists who had worked on various social causes.

Ng was a former flight attendant who became a union leader.

Ho was a journalist who rose to fame in 2019 when, during her live broadcast of a mob attack on protesters, she herself was beaten by thugs.

Wong was a student leader who began her activism when she was in high school.

Prolonged detentions without trial

The 47 defendants were charged in February 2021 with subversion for holding or participating in an unofficial primary vote to select opposition candidates to run in the election.

Unlike other types of crimes, national security cases impose a high threshold for bail, effectively allowing authorities to hold defendants for months or even years before trial. Critics say that amounts to a presumption that the defendants are guilty.

In pre-trial hearings, 16 pleaded not guilty and 31 pleaded guilty, including Benny Tai and Joshua Wong. Most, if not all, of the 47 are expected to receive prison sentences, which could range from less than three years to life in prison.

The defendants and their attorneys are prohibited from commenting on the case. But legal experts say democracy advocates are likely under enormous pressure to plead guilty because of lengthy detentions, dwindling financial resources and difficult chances of winning in a court modeled on China’s authoritarian system.

“The process is designed to be as painful as possible,” said Samuel Bickett, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and activist, who was jailed in Hong Kong after a fight with a plainclothes police officer in 2019.

The transformation of Hong Kong’s political landscape

Hong Kong was engulfed in widespread protests calling for greater freedom from China starting in June 2019. To quell the unrest, Beijing imposed a national security law in June 2020, days before the 47 Democrats held the elections. primary elections that would lead to their arrests months later. .

Most of the 47 have since been jailed. Their arrests effectively silenced the city’s once vociferous opposition. China also imposed a drastic overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral rules that effectively prevented pro-democracy candidates from running for seats in the legislature.

The protests began

Mass protests against the government began, which grew in intensity over months.

National security law enacted

The new law prohibits vaguely defined crimes of secession, subversion and terrorism, with a possible penalty of life in prison.

Primaries in favor of democracy

Pro-democracy candidates held a primary vote ahead of the upcoming Legislative Council elections. All 47 defendants helped organize or participated in this event.

Original election date.

47 people charged and most denied bail

They were charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” for organizing and participating in the pro-democracy primaries. Most were denied bail and kept behind bars while a lengthy legal process began.

New electoral rules announced

China announced new rules for Hong Kong elections, limiting candidates to those considered loyal to Beijing.

Elections are held “only for patriots”

More than 30 accused were arrested. Most of them had been imprisoned for almost two years before the trial began.

Conclusion of the final arguments

Hong Kong passed its own national security law

A court began issuing verdicts

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