Some defendants quit the party . . .
On Monday, Hong Kong’s Chief Magistrate Victor So began the hearing of 47 pro-democracy activists and lawyers arrested in January on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion. This morning, So announced that 15 of the defendants would be released on bail, but the entire group has been placed in custody pending an appeal. Of the 15 defendants purportedly granted bail, four announced that they have quit their party, the Civic Party, and dismissed their legal representative, Alan Leong Kah-kit, the Civic Party’s chair. These defendants may have been motivated by the possibility of lighter sentences for renouncing their political affiliation.
'35-plus' plan shut down . . .
The pro-democracy activists, organized by Benny Tai, a founder of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, held an unofficial primary election in July 2020. Its goal was to narrow the number of pro-democracy representatives that would run in each district to ensure that the vote would not be split between opposition candidates. This was commonly referred to as the ‘35-plus’ plan, as it was the goal of the activists to win at least 35 of the 70 seats in the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo). It was recently announced by Zhang Yesui, an official of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), that China’s national legislature plans to rewrite Hong Kong’s electoral rules to guarantee that only patriots, those loyal to the CCP, are elected to the LegCo.
A complicated case . . .
Benny Tai outlined his plans last April for engendering real electoral change in an article entitled, “The ten steps to real ‘laam chau.’” His stated goal was to use the pro-democracy majority in the LegCo to paralyze the local government by voting down the annual budget and forcing the Chief Executive to dissolve the council. Ultimately, he recognized “laam chau,” meaning mutual destruction, as an inevitability of Beijing's violent repression, hoping it would trigger a response from Western democratic states. However, many activists note that those participating in the unofficial democratic primaries had no plans to vote against the budget or interfere with the government’s functioning and intended only to forward their political goals within the electoral framework. The courts will have to determine the extent to which “laam chau” was the intended outcome of the unofficial primaries, knowing that the result of this highly-publicized trial has the power to exacerbate international tensions.
- BBC: Hong Kong activists: 15 of 47 granted bail but remain detained pending appeal
- New York Times: Demanding loyalty, China moves to overhaul Hong Kong elections
- South China Morning Post: National security law: defendants quit political party, fire their lawyers on third day of marathon hearings in case against 47 opposition figures