Hong Kong Expenses 47 Democracy Supporters With Violating Safety Legislation

HONG KONG — Dozens of pro-democracy figures who have been rounded up and detained last month have been arrested once more on Sunday and charged with violating Hong Kong’s harsh new nationwide safety legislation, the newest blow to the dwindling hopes for democracy within the territory.

The 47 politicians and activists charged on Sunday are accused of breaking the safety legislation by serving to to arrange a casual election major final yr for Hong Kong’s pro-democratic political camp. They have been amongst 55 people arrested in a January sweep and launched on bail whereas the police continued their investigation.

Earlier than Sunday, solely a handful of individuals had been formally charged with violating the safety legislation, although about 100 have been arrested on suspicion of doing so. These convicted of violating the legislation might be sentenced to life in jail.

The police mentioned that every of the 47 folks had been charged with a single depend of “conspiracy to commit subversion.” They embrace Benny Tai, a former University of Hong Kong law professor who drafted an election technique for the pro-democracy camp that included the casual major.

The first, held in July, regarded little totally different from others held in democracies around the globe. More than 600,000 people named their preferred choices to run for legislative workplace in September, typically favoring candidates carefully related to the mass antigovernment protests that convulsed town in 2019.

Below Mr. Tai’s technique, the pro-democracy bloc may use a majority within the metropolis’s Legislative Council to dam the federal government’s funds, which beneath Hong Kong legislation may ultimately power the chief government, Carrie Lam, to step down.

However the authorities warned that beneath the safety legislation, which China imposed on town in late June, such a plan was probably an act of subversion. Amongst different issues, the legislation bans interfering with, disrupting or undermining the features of the Chinese language and Hong Kong governments.

The September elections were ultimately postponed by Mrs. Lam’s authorities, which cited pandemic restrictions. Professional-democracy activists mentioned the delay was extra possible an effort to stave off the defeat of pro-establishment candidates, who lost badly in neighborhood-level elections in 2019.

Final yr, the Legislative Council’s pro-democracy bloc resigned en masse after Beijing forced four of its members out of workplace. This month, the Chinese language authorities signaled that it deliberate to alter Hong Kong’s electoral system to bar candidates seen as disloyal to China’s ruling Communist Social gathering. Whereas the main points of these adjustments have but to be finalized, they’re anticipated to ban all however probably the most conciliatory opposition figures from taking workplace.

The 47 folks charged on Sunday had been ordered days upfront to report back to the police, and since then, many had been saying farewell to family members and shopping for jail requirements, like metal-free glasses and sneakers with out shoelaces.

Owen Chow, a 24-year-old activist, posted a photograph on-line Sunday of a Buddhist chant newly tattooed onto his proper arm. “It seems to be just like the struggling will proceed indefinitely,” he wrote. “What we’d like isn’t creativeness concerning the struggling, however hope and willpower past struggling.”

Whereas within the station, Mr. Chow was charged with subversion beneath the nationwide safety legislation, based on his lawyer.

Lester Shum, who was a frontrunner of the 2014 pro-democracy protests often known as the Umbrella Motion and took part within the major final yr, was additionally charged. He mentioned the street to the arrests had begun with the 2019 protests.

“We’ve got lengthy earlier than determined that we’d not bow to authoritarianism,” he mentioned. “I hope that everybody will carry this resolution within the very tough days forward.”