HONG KONG (AP) — Hearings in the trial of 47 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists charged under a Beijing-imposed national security law have been extended to September.
The activists, aged 23 to 64, appeared in court Thursday in the government’s effort to convict them of conspiracy to commit subversion for their involvement in unofficial primary elections held last year by the pro-democracy camp to determine candidates to field in legislative elections which were later postponed.
Authorities say the primaries were part of a plot to paralyze Hong Kong’s government and have cracked down heavily on dissent following months of anti-government protests in 2019.
Defendants protested the move to extend the hearings and shouted that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement must “hang on.” The hearings will resume on Sept. 23.
In addition to the new national security law, authorities have changed the criteria for Hong Kong elections and the makeup of the legislature to ensure an overwhelming pro-Beijing majority. Most outspoken democracy advocates have been jailed, intimidated into silence or have sought asylum overseas, while demonstrations have been banned and the city's most prominent pro-democracy newspaper, the Apple Daily, has closed after police arrested staff and froze its assets.
Beijing has defended the moves as necessary to restore order in the Asian financial hub. Critics say they mark a betrayal of the central government's promise to maintain Hong Kong's civil liberties for 50 years after its handover from British colonial rule in 1997.