Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Hong Kong, March 2 (ANI): Hong Kong police has charged 47 former opposition lawmakers and activists for conspiring to 'subvert state power' under the draconian national security law in the region.

The lawmakers were charged on Sunday for their alleged roles in an unofficial primary run-off election that authorities linked to a plot to overthrow the government, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The hearing, which started at 4 pm on Monday, was finally forced to adjourn after defendant Clarisse Yeung Suet-ying fainted in the dock at about 1.45 am the following morning and was subsequently sent to the hospital. Co-defendants "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, Roy Tam Hoi-pong and Mike Lam King-nam were also taken in an ambulance after saying they felt unwell.

SCMP reported that this is the biggest mass prosecution of opposition politicians and activists in Hong Kong under the national security law and the hearings can be dragged on for a second straight marathon session throughout Tuesday.

The hearing on Monday witnessed protest from hundreds of supporters of those charged, many of whom chanted anti-government slogans while queuing outside the court building.

On the other hand, police raised warning flags in response, notifying those in the crowd they could be in violation of the national security law or the city's COVID-19 social-distancing rules.

A lawyer from a team representing some of the defendants was arrested on suspicion of offences including obstructing officers, while 42 people had been fined for violating COVID-19 rules, informed the police.

The charges, levelled on Sunday, marked one of the heaviest setbacks suffered by the opposition camp since the 1997 handover, with the Democratic Party and the Civic Party's leaders and veterans among those detained.

The age of those charged range from 23 to 64 and they were denied bail by the police.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, its vice-chairman Jeremy Tam Man-ho as well as activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung and People Power's Tam Tak-chi who are currently in jail, were among those charged under the security law.

The charges come as the repressive security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong has led to arrest of several pro-democracy lawmakers.

The law criminalises any act of secession (breaking away from China), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life inprisonment. It came into effect on July 1, 2020.

According to SCMP, authorities said that the opposition's plan to take control of the 70-member Legislative Council at the now-postponed official elections ran afoul of the national security law since it was part of a wider push to 'paralyse the government'.

The opposition also sought to provoke Beijing into ending the "one country, two systems" policy under which Hong Kong was governed, while triggering international sanctions against China.

As per the prosecution documents, those arrested are accused of violating the national security law by conspiring to "subvert the state power by organising, planning, committing or participating in acts which seriously interfere in, disrupt or undermine the performance of duties and functions by the local and central governments, by force or threat of force or other unlawful means".

However, eight more activists among those arrested over the case nearly one and a half months ago, were not charged on Sunday, including two former lawmakers of the Democratic Party, James To Kun-sun and Roy Kwong Chun-yu, health sector's Joseph Lee Kok-long and American human rights lawyer John Clancey.

Before entering the police station on Sunday, Shum -- a district councillor and former student leader -- described the charge as a "comprehensive suppression against the democrats".

Mike Lam King-nam, who was involved in the polls and is founder of the AbouThai retail chain, said: "I've done nothing wrong or illegal. I will have no regrets if charged or put behind bars."The Civic Party has also issued a statement, saying "justice will be on the right side of history", while the Democratic Party said it would provide legal assistance to its prosecuted members, SCMP reported.

Furthermore, the European Union (EU) Office to Hong Kong and Macau, expressed "great concern" over the charges faced by the arrested lawmakers.

The police operation in January sparked a global outcry, with the suspects who were out on bail accusing the force of using the law as a tool to spread "white terror" and suppress dissent in the city.

However, police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung had dismissed that charge, saying the national security unit had acted on evidence and in accordance with the law, adding that the accusation against the force was often used to evade justice or to fool the public. (ANI)

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