Dozens of Hong Kong former lawmakers charged under national security law

If condemned of “conspiracy to commit subversion” they might deal with an optimal sentence of life in jail.

Those charged were amongst 53 individuals — numerous popular previous legislators, activists and district councilors — who were jailed last month for arranging, preparing and taking part in a main election for the city’s democratic opposition last July.

That occasion was developed to determine the greatest pro-democracy prospects to field in legal council elections prepared for last September, when the opposition camp wanted to win an historic bulk.

Nevertheless, those elections were ultimately held off due to the coronavirus pandemic, however not prior to numerous democracy prospects were disqualified — and cautions made that those taking part in the main might be in breach of the then weeks-old security law.

The 39 males and 8 ladies charged Sunday, aged in between 23 and 64, are being apprehended and will appear at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday. Under their initial bail arrangements, they weren’t needed to sign in with cops up until early April. However previously today, the group was asked to report to cops on Sunday.

Benny Tai, associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong and co-founder of activist group Occupy Central with Love and Peace (OCLP) reports to the Ma On Shan Police Station on February 28, in Hong Kong.

The charges on Sunday mark a sweeping escalation in the application of the national security law, under which previously only a handful of people had been charged and taken to court.

The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers, and cases under the legislation can be handled by a dedicated branch of the Hong Kong cops and nationwide security courts.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and others had formerly promised the law would be limited in effect, and just target a small number of fringe activists.

The charges come less than a week after the Hong Kong government moved to introduce new requirements for public officials, including that they swear loyalty oaths and embrace Beijing’s rule over the city.

Anyone who fails to take the oath — or is deemed to have done so in an insincere fashion — would be immediately disqualified from office and banned from running in elections for the next five years, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang said.

It came after Hong Kong’s sole delegate to China’s top legislative body said that only “staunch patriots” should be allowed to hold positions of authority in Hong Kong.

The charges are of “great concern to [the] EU,” the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macau said Sunday.

“Charges against 47 pro-democrat is of great concern to #EU. These make clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in #HongKong. We urge authorities to abide by their commitments to fundamental #freedoms and the rule of law, as per the #BL and #ICCPR,” the EU office tweeted.

Why punish a primary election?

Primary elections are a normal function in democracies around the world. At the time of the Hong Kong vote, the United States Democratic primary, which Biden won, was still ongoing. The Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have held such votes in the past, in an attempt to match the organization and discipline of the rival pro-Beijing camp and avoid splintering support.

Hong Kong’s Secretary of Security, however, has accused those who organized the July primaries of seeking to “paralyze the Hong Kong government” by winning a majority in the legislature to veto government bills.

Voting against the budget and forcing the chief executive to resign would have been legal prior to the nationwide security law, similar to a “vote of no confidence” that prompts a general election in many democracies. The city’s constitution also contains provisions to deal with such an event, enabling the chief executive to call new legislative elections, and to pass a preliminary budget to enable the federal government to continue to function.

Mike Lam King-nam, who participated in the pro-democracy primary elections, gives a hug to his wife ahead of reporting the Ma On Shan Police Station on February 28,  in Hong Kong.

When dozens of former lawmakers and opposition activists were arrested in January, Anthony Blinken, now the US Secretary of State, stated “the sweeping arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators are an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights.”

“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Blinken added.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned in January that the British federal government “will not look the other way when the rights and the autonomy of the people of Hong Kong are trashed.”

“When China first imposed the national security legislation, they said it was to bring some stability to Hong Kong. What is clear from these actions is that actually it is designed to crush political dissent,” Raab told CNN during an interview in London.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long included to this report.