After a two-year wait, the NatSec trial of pan-democrats starts. The alleged crime is ‘conspiracy to commit subversion’ – trying to gain constitutional political power peacefully through an election.
Paid court-goers line up to get (if not use) public-gallery passes so there are fewer seats for regular members of the public (and defendants’ family members). At least the press can get in.
In The Guardian…
…prosecutors told the West Kowloon magistrates court that the accused had conspired to seriously interfere, disrupt or undermine the duties and functions of the Hong Kong government, “with a view to subverting the state power”.
…Most have been in jail for almost two years, having been denied bail. Legal observers have criticised the national security law for reversing the presumption of bail for defendants.
John Burns, emeritus professor at the University of Hong Kong, said the trial of the democrats is a “test of will” of Beijing’s capacity to completely wipe out organized opposition in Hong Kong.
Burns said arresting the democrats and pressing charges against them was meant to both intimidate and eliminate the opposition, either by chasing them out of Hong Kong into exile or by jailing them.
“It is a process of removing them. By shutting down political parties, shutting down trade unions, they are shutting down the basis of the support for organized opposition,” Burns said.
The NY Times…
“It’s hard to overestimate the enormity of this case, because it’s basically meant to be a knockout blow to Hong Kong’s peaceful political mainstream opposition,” said Thomas Kellogg, the executive director of the Center for Asian Law.
“This is a real choice by the Hong Kong government and Beijing,” he continued. “They could have focused on people who were talking about independence, for example, or people who had been more harshly critical of Hong Kong government policy and Beijing’s policy toward Hong Kong. Instead, they have gone after every sector of civic life.”
More from Tom Kellogg…
…the defendants are guilty of nothing more than organizing a primary election, as is their right under internat’l human rights law. They should be found not guilty, and prosecutors trying the case should be shamed by the court. That won’t happen, of course.
Jemimah Steinfeld at Index on Censorship loses patience with the cautious phrasing of the big news outlets and gives it both barrels…
The 47 are walking into court with their guilt presumed.
…This is a show trial masquerading as justice.
From ChinaFile, an updated full list of NatSec arrests and convictions.
In short, the trial is likely to reflect badly on a city trying to convince the world it is free and open. To Hongkongers, the dissonance or contradiction between the political prosecutions and jailings and the Hello Hong Kong tourism campaign is both absurd and tragic. But not too puzzling if you can grasp the new-look ‘One Country, Two Systems’ model: Beijing is in charge of this stuff, leaving Hong Kong officials to flail helplessly doing that stuff.