Hong Kong political activists plead guilty in crackdown

HONG KONG — Hong Kong authorities say 29 of the 47 pro-democracy activists accused of “conspiracy to commit subversion” under a strict national security law filed guilty pleas on Thursday, as the Beijing government blocked opposition votes in the regional financial to silence the center.

Thursday’s court proceedings came amid a sweeping campaign against those who spoke out against demands for absolute loyalty to the ruling Communist Party of China.

The 47 democracy activists, aged between 23 and 64, were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the Beijing-imposed National Security Law and were detained last year for their involvement in unofficial 2020 primaries, which authorities said was a plot to cripple the Hong Kong government. . The primaries showed strong support for candidates willing to challenge the Beijing-backed local government.

Among those pleading guilty were well-known political activists including Joshua Wong and Benny Tai, Hong Kong media reported.

Media coverage restrictions have been lifted for the cases, which are due to begin in the Hong Kong Supreme Court next month.

Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise that it would maintain its own legal, economic and social systems for 50 years.

Despite the steady deterioration of the special rights promised to the territory under a “one country, two systems” framework, it retains the British common law system independent of Communist Party regulations that affect the legal outcomes on the mainland. determine.

During Thursday’s hearing, Wong, who is still in custody, said the primaries have allowed Hong Kongers to express their political will.

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“Our voice is our voice, which is heard in the global community,” Wong said.

About 2,000 Hong Kong residents have been detained and the main opposition newspaper Apple Daily has been shut down since the pro-democracy protests of 2019. More have been arrested over subsequent actions, including 90-year-old Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, while political speeches and public rallies are frozen by uncertainty about where the authorities’ red lines lie.

China responded to the protests by enforcing sweeping national security law, rounding up opposition figures in the media and civil society and reorganizing the local legislative council to ensure that only pro-Beijing figures can hold office.

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