Historic Verdict in Hong Kong's Largest Democracy Trial Looms

Hong Kong's High Court is set to deliver verdicts against 16 democrats in a significant subversion trial. This case, stemming from mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, has drawn international scrutiny. The trial could impact the democratic movement and Hong Kong's global reputation. Thirty-one of the 47 democrats have pleaded guilty.

Reuters | Updated: 30-05-2024 06:10 IST | Created: 30-05-2024 06:10 IST
Historic Verdict in Hong Kong's Largest Democracy Trial Looms
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Security was tight around Hong Kong's High Court on Thursday ahead of verdicts against 16 democrats in a subversion trial critics say could have major repercussions for the opposition democratic movement and the global financial hub's reputation.

The verdict comes more than three years after police arrested 47 democrats in mass dawn raids at homes across Hong Kong, later charging them with "conspiracy to commit subversion" under a China-imposed national security law. Scores of police officers and vehicles patrolled the High Court area as prison vehicles began bringing the 16 defendants to court. Some supporters queued overnight to secure a spot.

"I came because it's a critical stage and a historical moment (for Hong Kong)," said a man surnamed Chiu, 35, who began waiting at midnight. "They (the democrats) all stood up for themselves and for Hong Kong people, hoping to make a change." The criminal trial is the biggest ever against Hong Kong's democratic opposition and is being closely watched internationally, with diplomats from the U.S., Britain and Europe having attended court proceedings.

So far, 31 of the 47 democrats have pleaded guilty, while 16 maintain their innocence. Four defendants have become prosecution witnesses. Mass pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong in 2019 over new security laws planned by Beijing, which democrats argued infringed on freedoms guaranteed when Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British in 1997.

Known as the 47 democrats case, the charges centre around an unofficial pre-selection ballot in July 2020 that prosecutors called a "vicious plot" to paralyse government. The democrats maintain it was an unofficial attempt to select the strongest candidates for a citywide election in a bid to win a historic majority in Hong Kong's legislature.

High Court Judges Alex Lee, Andrew Chan and Johnny Chan are expected to deliver their verdict during hearings scheduled for Thursday and Friday, according to the judiciary website. Most of the accused have been detained for more than 1,000 days since Feb. 28, 2021, and were subjected to marathon bail hearings.

Countries including the U.S. have criticised the trial as politically motivated, and have called for the accused to be immediately released.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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