Hong Kong protesters defy ban to show support for detained leaders
Hundreds of Hong Kong people have defied the threat of prosecution to protest the indictment of 47 swept-away pro-democracy politicians in the city’s biggest national security law case.
Gathering outside a bail hearing for the arrested activists on Monday, protesters chanted slogans such as “Regain HK, revolution of our time”, a phrase according to which authorities violated the law on Security.
Former lawmakers and elected activists – which included Joshua Wong, the opposition leader already jailed in another case – were charged with subversion on Sunday in a move that underscored the government’s determination to crush dissent in the city , critics said.
Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, said the detentions underscored “China’s broken promises to the world regarding Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic rights.”
“We stand in solidarity with these courageous activists,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter.
In a separate statement, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, called for their immediate release. “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes,” he said.
Beijing imposed the national security law last June to crack down on pro-democracy protests that began in 2019. Most prominent activists are in jail, on bail, or have fled overseas.
The American condemnation, which came despite Beijing notify the Biden administration last month not to interfere in the territory, followed criticism from the UK and the EU.
“It shows in the cruelest terms that the National Security Act is being used to suppress political dissent rather than to restore order,” said Dominic Raab, the British Foreign Secretary.
The 47 activists indicted on Sunday were among 55 pro-democracy politicians arrested by the police in January.
Activists were involved in an unofficial opposition primaries vote to select the most popular politicians to run for election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the city’s de facto parliament.
Police charged the activists with “conspiracy to commit subversion”, a crime under the National Security Act punishable by life imprisonment. Authorities allege the primary was part of a strategy to overthrow the government.
John Clancey, a Hong Kong-based American human rights lawyer who was arrested in January and became the first expatriate arrested under the security law, was not charged.
Willy Lam, an expert on China at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the arrests underscored increased pressure on the opposition.
“What constitutes a violation of the national security law depends on the determination of the authorities and it is relatively easy for them to use general legislation to incriminate politicians or activists they think. . . have done something detrimental to the authority of the central government, ”he said, referring to Beijing.
Monday’s bail hearing was tense. Police maintained a strong presence to monitor crowds of supporters, many of whom lined up for hours outside the courthouse.
On Sunday, politicians bid farewell to loved ones and bid farewell to supporters before handing themselves over to the police. Some have opted for plastic-rimmed glasses and slip-on shoes in anticipation of being detained for a long time.
“No matter how difficult it will be. I want to say to all Hong Kong people wherever you are to stay faithful, to have hope and to continue our struggle, ”said Lester Shum, one of the arrested politicians, as he held hands. of his wife.
The introduction of the Security Act sparked a crackdown on the city’s once free civic life. Teachers have been disqualified, journalists arrested and officials forced to take an oath of loyalty.
China also signaled a deeper upheaval in the electoral system, saying it wanted to ensure that only “the patriots rule Hong Kong.”