Hong Kong convicts 14 defendants in the largest trial against the pro-democracy movement

Hong Kong convicts 14 defendants in the largest trial against the pro-democracy movement

Those convicted are part of a group of 47 charged with conspiracy in January 2021

court Hong Kong 14 people found guilty of sabotage this Thursday (30), in the largest trial against pro-democracy activists since China It imposed a strict national security law on the semi-autonomous city in 2020 to stamp out dissent. The decision was a response to the large, sometimes violent, pro-democracy protests that had paralyzed this international financial center the previous year. The 14 defendants, in addition to 31 others who pleaded guilty, could face life sentences. The rulings will be announced this year. Those convicted are part of a group of 47 accused of conspiring in January 2021. Authorities alleged that their election plan, which included primaries between candidates who pledged to block government legislation and force the chief executive to resign with the support of his supporters, Beijing city, was an illegal subversion of state power. On Tuesday and yesterday the 29th, police arrested seven people, the first to be detained under new internal security legislation passed this year known as Article 23. They are accused of exploiting the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square. , which police euphemistically described as a “certain sensitive date,” to incite hatred toward the Chinese government.

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The trial was held without a jury and was conducted by a panel of three judges drawn from a pool of jurists chosen by the leader of Hong Kong's semi-autonomous government. Only two former district councilors were acquitted, but Hong Kong Justice Minister Maggie Yang announced in court that they would appeal that decision. Pro-Beijing figures said they hoped this week's rulings and the imminent conclusion of the national security trial of prominent pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai would mark an end to a period of political repression, allowing the city to focus on improving its weak economy. In a brief summary of the ruling published by the court, the justices said the 14 conspired to undermine “the power and authority of the government and the chief executive” of the city. “In our view, this would create a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong,” they said.

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The ruling, which was read in court by foreign diplomats, drew almost immediate condemnation from Australia United kingdom And from European Union. The United Kingdom, a former colonial power, has urged Hong Kong authorities to release all people charged under the national security law. Most of the defendants have been detained since March 2021, when they were brought to justice for the first time. The United States and other Western countries have criticized China for suppressing the pro-democracy movement and restricting the freedoms it promised when it regained control of the former British colony in 1997.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed its “firm opposition” to the criticism and called on those who criticized it to “immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs.” Diplomatic spokesman Mao Ning said: “No one can engage in illegal activities in the name of democracy and then try to escape the punishment of the law.” Before Thursday's ruling, 114 activists were convicted of crimes linked to the national security law imposed in 2020.

*With information from AFP and Estadão Conteúdo

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