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The ‘Hong Kong 47’ Convicted in the City’s Largest Trial to Crush Democracy

Updated: Jun 4

May 30, 2024 – Today, the Hong Kong courts convicted 14 pro-democracy activists in the city’s largest national security trial.   The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation unequivocally condemns these sentences and calls for the immediate release of the 47 and all other political prisoners currently being held in Hong Kong prisons.

The sentences come after the trial of 47 pro-democracy figures, 31 of which have already pleaded guilty. Of the 16 who pleaded not guilty, 14 individuals were found guilty of ‘conspiracy to subvert state power.’ The ‘Hong Kong 47’ were arrested in February 2021 for participating in primary elections. Their trial began in February 2023. Prosecutors alleged that the activists held primary elections to ‘overthrow the government.’ The convicted activists will be sentenced at a later date, together with the 31 who entered a guilty plea.

The ‘Hong Kong 47’ includes many prominent opposition lawmakers, such as Claudio Mo, Leung Kwok-hung or ‘Long hair’, Helena Wong, as well as Nobel nominees, Gwyneth Ho and Joshua Wong.   Two other activists, Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun were acquitted, however, the Hong Kong justice minister has launched an immediate appeal against their acquittal, and they will remain on bail upon determination of the appeal.

The mass trial of the Hong Kong 47, not to mention the arrest and sham trial of Jimmy Lai, was a wakeup call for the international community and has damaged Hong Kong’s reputation as one of the “freest” cities in Asia.  Hong Kong has already seen number of foreign companies and financial institutions reduced since the pandemic with many institutions relocating their regional headquarters out of a city that once topped the rankings for global companies’ choosing where to set up their Asian hubs. The number of global companies with regional headquarters in Hong Kong has fallen 8.4 per cent since 2019, and staff numbers engaged by such firms have dropped by as much 30% in the same time period.

The value of the Hang Seng index has fallen by more than 40% since 2019 and those international banks who have been either relocating or releasing staff, pointing to slow growth and low investor confidence, especially after the introduction of the National Security Law and the subsequent enforcement of Article 23 (Hong Kong’s own version of the NSL).

The National Security Law (NSL), introduced in 2020 by Beijing to crush dissent, has become Hong Kong’s most oppressive law. The National Security Law carries four offences; secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion which can be punishable with a maximum life sentence. All defendants were charged with subversion.

Mark Sabah, Director of the CFHK Foundation said:

“The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation condemns the conviction of the ‘Hong Kong 47’ and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. 

This mass conviction shows just how Hong Kong’s National Security Law is being used to silence dissent. It completely destroys any pretence of a political opposition and highlights the complete collapse of human rights in Hong Kong. Most of the 47 have already been held detention for more than three years; they have been targeted for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and participating in elections. The Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly chosen to ignore all calls from the international community to drop these charges, to end the sham trial and to set these political prisoners free.

The British government and others, should now take decisive steps to impose sanctions on Hong Kong’s political leadership, to shut down Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices around the world and to increase avenues for those wishing to leave the city to relocate in safety.”

Picture Credit: Hong Kong Free Press

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