Landmark case for 47 Hong Kong democrats adjourned till June By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Professional-democracy activist Joshua Wong walks to a jail van to go to courtroom with different activists, over a nationwide safety legislation cost, in Hong Kong, China March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Picture

By Jessie Pang and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) -A landmark nationwide safety case involving 47 Hong Kong democrats was adjourned on Thursday to June 1-2, with most of the defendants having been in custody since February final yr and going through the opportunity of months extra on remand.

The 47 had been arrested on a cost of conspiracy to commit subversion after collaborating in an unofficial, non-binding and independently organised main vote in 2020 to pick out candidates for a since-postponed metropolis election.

Authorities mentioned the vote was a “vicious plot” to subvert the federal government of the Chinese language-ruled metropolis.

The 47 had been charged underneath a 2020 nationwide safety legislation that China imposed on the previous British colony, which critics say threw into query the freedoms it loved after returning to Chinese language rule in 1997 underneath a “one nation, two techniques” formulation.

Whereas the West has criticised the legislation as a instrument to crush dissent, Chinese language and Hong Kong authorities say it has introduced stability to the Asian monetary hub after main pro-democracy protests in 2019.

West Kowloon Justice of the Peace Peter Legislation adjourned the case of the 47. Hong Kong legal guidelines limit reporting of pre-trial committal proceedings apart from sure key particulars.

This week, Excessive Courtroom decide Esther Toh had indicated in a written judgement for a bail utility for one of many defendants, Gary Fan, that not less than 11 of the defendants supposed to plead responsible.

She additionally famous within the judgement that she had “sympathy” for the lengthy watch for the trial to begin, which “militates towards equity” to Fan.

Thirty-four of the defendants, who embody the younger democracy campaigner Joshua Wong, have been in pre-trial custody for greater than a yr. Solely 13 have been granted bail.

Toh mentioned in a press release on Tuesday that the procedural developments within the case advised “there will probably be an extended delay earlier than trial”.

She cited Fan’s defence lawyer, Margaret Ng, as saying the “earliest real looking trial date will probably be someplace in mid-2023”.

Two of the defendants had been granted bail that was later revoked after they had been re-arrested on suspicion of constructing remarks endangering nationwide safety underneath the 2020 legislation, underneath which some offences are punishable by as much as life in jail.

Toh, in a separate assertion on Thursday, additionally set out her reasoning for denying bail to a different defendant, commerce union chief Carol Ng, saying she had “a global affect because of her commerce union work”.

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