The landmark national security trial relating to 47 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures has been adjourned to November for the prosecution and defence to prepare closing arguments. It came after the last defendant completed testifying in the case surrounding an unofficial legislative primary poll held in 2020.
A panel of three designated national security judges on Monday gave prosecutors and legal representatives of 16 former lawmakers, ex-district councillors and activists around four months to prepare closing submissions in the high-profile case concerning an alleged conspiracy to commit subversion, local media reported.
The trial is set to resume on November 27.
The adjournment came after the court finished hearing evidence from the last defendant – ex-Hospital Authority union chief Winnie Yu on Monday. According to local media, the activist told the court that she would have used legal means to fight for the five demands put forward by protesters during the 2019 anti-extradition bill unrest. She said last week that she would have voted down government bills “by default” if she had been elected to the legislature.
At the centre of the case is an unofficial primary election held in July 2020, which aimed to help the opposition camp win majority control of the then-70-seat legislature. The 16 democrats on trial, together with 31 defendants who earlier pleaded guilty, were said to have intended to abuse their legislative powers to indiscriminately veto bills, forcing the chief executive’s resignation and a government shutdown.
Most of the defendants have been detained since a marathon bail hearing in March 2021, with 13 currently out on bail.
The Hong Kong government later postponed the election, citing public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It was eventually held under an overhauled electoral system steered by Beijing which made it near impossible for opposition candidates to stand.
Monday marked day 115 of the closely-watched trial which was estimated to last around 90 days. The democrats could face up to life imprisonment if convicted.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.