Friday, February 26, 2021

Excessive-profile Hong Kong activists face trial as China tightens grip on democracy

Final week, 9 high-profile Hong Kong democracy activists went on trial on prices associated to the 2019 mass protest motion there.

Why it issues: The trial is one other step in Beijing’s heavy-handed destruction of Hong Kong’s liberal political traditions.

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What’s taking place: The defendants embrace Lee Cheuk-yan, who has organized Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil yearly since 1989; honored politician Martin Lee; former legislator Margaret Ng; and Jimmy Lai, proprietor of stories outlet Apple Day by day.

The large image: The costs are politically motivated and characterize a degradation of Hong Kong’s historically impartial judiciary system.

  • “Martin Lee is the personification of the rule of legislation. He is aware of the legislation, he practices legislation, he reveres the legislation,” wrote Fred Hiatt, editor of the Washington Put up editorial web page, in an op-ed printed Feb. 21.

  • “That Chinese language chief Xi Jinping now needs to place this distinguished 82-year-old barrister in jail completely illustrates the dictator’s contempt for the legislation. It reveals, as it’s meant to point out, that nobody in Hong Kong is protected any longer from the arbitrary repression of the Chinese language Communist Celebration,” Hiatt wrote.

Context: The costs should not associated to the nationwide safety legislation that Beijing compelled on Hong Kong in 2020. That legislation can’t be invoked for incidents that occurred earlier than it took impact in July 2020.

  • However Hong Kong authorities, below China’s steering, have pursued each avenue of prosecution towards pro-democracy activists. A number of activists already charged with lesser crimes below present legal guidelines, together with Lai, have lately seen further prices below the nationwide safety legislation, which carries far harsher punishments together with as much as 10 years and even life in jail.

  • “I’ve 4 trials for 4 incidents,” Lee Cheuk-yan instructed me in a telephone name on Monday morning simply earlier than he entered the courthouse for his trial.

  • Once I requested him if he had been charged below the nationwide safety legislation, he stated, “Not but.”

What to look at: China is contemplating changing the 117 seats in Hong Kong’s lawmaking physique at the moment held by largely pro-democracy representatives, in accordance with a Wall Avenue Journal report, and giving them to Hong Kong-based members of the Chinese language Folks’s Political Consultative Convention, whose members are pro-Beijing.

  • The Hong Kong authorities additionally stated it had discovered “deficiencies” within the editorial administration of RTHK, town’s public broadcaster, and introduced that the impartial information outlet’s director would get replaced with a bureaucrat with safety expertise however no journalism background.

The underside line: The nationwide safety legislation has made it much more harmful for Hong Kong residents to overtly oppose politically motivated prosecutions, even when the costs themselves aren’t below that legislation — making it that a lot simpler for Beijing to additional entrench authoritarianism within the metropolis.

Go deeper: With Hong Kong arrests, China outlaws democracy itself

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