Convict 47 Hong Kong Democrats after trial of those who pleaded not guilty out of ‘fairness’, prosecution says
Hong Kong’s High Court is expected to sentence the 29 pro-democracy figures who pleaded guilty in the city’s biggest national security case after their 18 co-defendants went on trial due to the ‘complexity’ of the case and by concern for fairness to the defendants, prosecutors said.
However, former Democratic Party Vice Chairman Andrew Wan and activist Wong Ji-yuet said they wanted to be sentenced “as soon as possible”. They are among 29 defendants who have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit subversion.
Wan and Wong appeared before National Security Judges Andrew Chan, Wilson Chan and Johnny Chan on Wednesday morning in a hearing to discuss their sentences.
The couple were among 29 Democrats who pleaded guilty to their roles in an alleged conspiracy to commit subversion involving an unofficial primary election held in July 2020 aimed at selecting candidates for the Legislative Council election, which went on to been delayed.
The 47 defendants were accused of conspiring to block budget bills, cripple government operations and ultimately force the chief executive to resign if they were to win a majority in the legislature.
Lawyer Chase Pun, who represented Wong, said his client would prefer to be convicted before the trial of her 18 co-defendants who have pleaded not guilty.
“We don’t know when the trial will start,” Pun said, as a date for the trial has yet to be set, adding that Wong preferred “the case to be dealt with as soon as possible.”
The prosecution said Wong, who won the polls for the New Territories West geographic riding, argued for the primaries. At an election forum, Wong reportedly spread ‘unwarranted resentment against the National Security Act’ and said she would stand by her belief to ‘resist to the bitter end’ both on the streets and in the Legislative Assembly .
Wan’s attorney, Tina Mok, also said the former lawmaker hoped to receive his sentencing before trial, as he had already been in pretrial detention for more than a year and a half.
The former Democratic Party Vice Chairman, who won in the same constituency as Wong, reportedly advocated “the synergy of the LegCo Battlefront and the Street Battlefront” to bring the plot to fruition. He was accused of campaigning for the primaries on social media in posts that “spread unfounded resentment towards central authorities, the chief executive, the government and the police”.
More than 30 defendants in the case, including Wan, have been in custody since their arrest by police on February 28, 2021, before their first court appearance the following day.
Both attorneys said the oral portion of their defendants’ mitigation could be dealt with within the hour.
The prosecution, however, said the sentencing should take place after trial, as the court must consider factors such as “fairness to the defendants” as well as “the complexity of the case”.
Wong wore a student union t-shirt at Lingnan University on Wednesday, where she recently majored in visual studies.
Former Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau was in the public gallery. She stood up and waved at Wan as he was led away after the hearing.
Court Management Hearing Series
Wednesday’s hearing was part of a series of case management hearings that began last week to discuss mitigation and sentencing issues.
Judge Andrew Chan said on Tuesday that prosecutors could expand on their case after all case management issues were dealt with in November.
Under security laws imposed by Beijing, defendants convicted of subversion could be sentenced to life imprisonment if found to be “the principal perpetrator of an offense of a ‘serious nature’.” Those who have “actively participated” in the offense will be imprisoned between three and 10 years, as the others who have participated in it will be imprisoned for a maximum of three years.
The 18 politicians and activists who have pleaded not guilty will be tried by a panel of national security judges instead of a jury, as ordered by city justice secretary Paul Lam.
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