Verdicts 'Effectively Wipe Out' Opposition in Hong Kong

US condemns conviction of pro-democracy activists
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 1, 2024 10:45 AM CDT
US Condemns Conviction of Hong Kong Activists
Police officers stand guard in Hong Kong on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Chan Long Hei)

The United States on Friday expressed its deep concerns about the convictions of 14 pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong under a Beijing-imposed national security law, saying it's taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the implementation of the sweeping legislation.

  • US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller called for the release of the detained activists a day after the United Kingdom made a similar appeal following the landmark verdicts on Thursday, the AP reports. "The defendants were subjected to a politically motivated prosecution and jailed simply for peacefully participating in political activities protected under the Basic Law of Hong Kong," Miller said in a statement. The Basic Law is the city's mini-constitution.
  • The activists were charged with organizing unofficial primaries in a bid to build a pro-democracy majority in the legislature and put pressure on the government by vetoing budgets.

  • The democracy advocates were among 47 activists who were charged in the city's biggest national security case to date. The 14 activists convicted Thursday, along with 31 others who pleaded guilty earlier, will be sentenced at a later date. Two were acquitted by a court, but authorities plan to appeal the acquittal. Most of the defendants have been in custody since their arrests more than three years ago.
  • Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Jeff Merkley, who lead a congressional panel on China, criticized the Hong Kong government for "bulldozing" the freedoms and rule of law that once made the city so vital. "Let us be clear: The Hong Kong 47 verdicts violate international law and treaty obligations," they said in a statement.

  • The mass prosecution of the 47 activists dealt a heavy blow to the city's pro-democracy movement following huge anti-government protests in 2019. "These verdicts effectively wipe out the whole political opposition in Hong Kong," Sunny Cheung, who ran in the July 2020 primary and later fled to the US, tells the BBC.
  • The pro-democracy movement the 47 represented "no longer exists," James Griffiths writes at the Globe and Mail. "Almost all opposition parties have disbanded or are defunct, their leaders either in prison or exile," he writes. "Under new rules set by Beijing, all elections are now restricted to 'patriots,' candidates who are pre-vetted by a government-appointed committee."
  • Griffiths notes that mass protests are no longer possible in Hong Kong, but authorities are still passing laws to further crush dissent, including commemorations of the Tiananmen Square massacre. "The loss of political life has had an indelible effect on Hong Kong's character. The city is no longer the optimistic, forward-looking place it once was," he writes. "Many people speak bleakly about the future and have either checked out or are making plans to leave."
(More Hong Kong stories.)

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