Hong Kong Watch urges international community to monitor the unfair trial of the 47 Hong Kong democrats
05 February 2023
By Hong Kong Watch
Today, the long-awaited National Security Law trial of the 47 democrats begins in Hong Kong. The 47 democrats – including former elected legislators, activists, social workers, academics, trade unionists, and journalists – organised and stood for election in unofficial primaries in July 2020 to choose the pro-democracy camp’s candidates for the scheduled Legislative Council elections. They were arrested and charged under the National Security Law simply for holding these primaries.
The results of these primary elections were intended to be used to put forward the most popular candidates for the official elections, in a strategic move to maximise the chances for the pro-democracy camp in the Legislative Council.
The Hong Kong Government critical of the unofficial primaries has accused the 47 democrats of planning to “paralyse” the government by winning a majority and voting against government bills.
The unofficial primaries took place less than two weeks after the National Security Law was imposed on Hong Kong. On 6 January 2021, 55 people were arrested under the National Security Law for their involvement in the primaries. Of these, 47 were charged with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under the National Security Law. This is the biggest mass arrest in the crackdown since the National Security Law was implemented.
Concerns have been raised about the 47 defendants’ right to fair trial. So far, 32 of the defendants have spent two years in detention already, having been denied bail, and the trial will proceed with judges handpicked by the Hong Kong Chief Executive and without a jury due to alleged security concerns.
Commenting on the beginning of the trial of the 47, the last Governor of Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, Lord Patten of Barnes, said:
“The Communist Party in Beijing, through its willing collaborators in Hong Kong, continues step-by-step to purge leaders or supporters of democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong. I hope the world will continue to watch what is happening and take it to heart when considering how to treat Communist China in the weeks and months ahead.”
The former pro-democracy lawmaker in exile and a colleague of the 47, Ted Hui, said:
“The detained 47 are the most prominent representatives of all Hong Kongers. They are the faces of Hong Kong. I call on leaders from free countries to make the strongest statements ever to support them and call for their release. It’s not just about their individual freedom, but the freedom of all Hong Kongers, and freedom in the world.”
Hong Kong Watch’s co-founder and Chief Executive, Benedict Rogers, said:
“This trial is deeply symbolic of the transformation of Hong Kong from open society to police state, and is emblematic of the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms, autonomy, human rights and the rule of law. It is a total travesty of justice that these 47 individuals are even on trial, simply for conducting a process which is normal in any democracy, an open primary to select their candidates.
The international community must watch this trial very closely indeed, ensure that the spotlight is kept on the trial, that injustices are exposed and, in particular, that those among the 47 who currently have or have in the past held foreign passports receive all possible support from the governments of those countries which issued those passports, whether it be the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia or the United States, or elsewhere. The international community must not allow the trial of the 47 to be forgotten, ignored or conducted in darkness, but rather we must ensure that the eyes of the world are continuously on this trial.”