Hong Kong judge postpones 'subversion' trial of 47 pro-democracy figures

By the time the trial begins in March, many of the accused will have been behind bars for more than a year.
By Hwang Chun-mei
Hong Kong judge postpones 'subversion' trial of 47 pro-democracy figures Hong Kong filmmaker Kiwi Chow, director of the award-winning 'Revolution of our Times,' poses for a portrait in the city's Kowloon district, Sept. 1, 2021.

A Hong Kong judge ruled on Monday that the trial of 47 pro-democracy activists and opposition politicians accused of subversion after they organized a democratic primary will be adjourned until March 2022, meaning that many will have been in jail for more than a year by the time the trial begins.

Only 14 of the group have been granted bail, and the remainder have been in jail since March 2021.

Magistrate Peter Law said the adjournment was made to allow time for nearly 10,000 pages of evidence to be translated by the end of the year.

Scant details of the case are available, as media organizations are barred under Hong Kong law from publishing details of pre-trial proceedings.

The 47, who include veteran opposition figures and the founders of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement, are among more than 150 people to be arrested under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

The law criminalizes speech deemed to "incite hatred" against the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, and has ushered in a citywide crackdown on all forms of public dissent, peaceful protest and political opposition.

Anyone speaking ill of Hong Kong's police force, who sparked an international outcry for widespread and disproportionate violence during the 2019 protest movement, could also face prosecution, as can anyone encouraging others to boycott forthcoming elections under new rules designed to ensure only pro-CCP candidates can stand.

The 47 arrestees' subversion charges rest on their participation in a non-binding primary election in 2020 to select the best candidates to run in elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo). They are accused of trying to subvert the city government by trying to win enough seats to block government legislation, including budgets.

Meanwhile, a film about the pro-democracy movement scooped the Golden Horse Award for "best documentary" in democratic Taiwan at the weekend.

"Revolution of our Times" by Hong Kong director Kiwi Chow can't be screened in Hong Kong under new film censorship rules designed to comply with the national security law.

Chow dedicated the film to "Hongkongers with a conscience."

"I cried many times when making the film and many times I found comfort, vented my anger and hatred, and faced my fear and trauma through this film," he said.

'Willingness to stand up'

Chow's documentary follows seven different groups of people who become involved in the 2019 anti-extradition movement, which later broadened to include demands for fully democratic elections, and full accountability for police violence.

"The world should know that Hongkongers' willingness to stand up and face what was happening managed to change diplomatic relations between countries," he said.

But he added: "I believe that the brilliance we saw in this movement is also the brilliance of human nature."

Chow said he would remain in Hong Kong to try to set an example for his six-year-old son, despite fears that he could be arrested.

"I don't think I'm at risk of being arrested," Chow said. "My son had a good answer for that: he told me God will protect our family whether or not I am arrested."

Another Hong Kong winner was "Drifting" by Jun Li, which garnered the Best Adapted Screenplay Award about street sleepers under a flyover in the working class district of Sham Shui Po.

"The creative road is a hard and lonely one, and I want to thank my colleagues who have always supported me," Li told the crowd, before shouting: "Thank you, Hong Kong!"

Some among the audience responded to the awards by shouting "Free Hong Kong, Revolution now!" a slogan that is banned as "secessionist" in Hong Kong under the national security law.

Current affairs commentator Sang Pu, who has relocated from Hong Kong to Taiwan, said any productions or publications deemed anti-CCP or on themes like freedom or democracy are now banned in the city.

"The CCP has been ruling Hong Kong for more than 20 years now," Sang told RFA. "To begin with, it took the approach of superficial benevolence, but now it's repression all the way under the national security law."

"I don't think there's much chance that things will improve in Hong Kong in the short time ... so many film-makers opt to go to Taiwan or other countries to pursue their careers."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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