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47 Hong Kong Activists Could Face Life Sentences for Organizing Primary

They've been charged with subversion under Beijing's national security law
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 1, 2021 6:10 PM CST

(Newser) – Hong Kong democracy supporters are being locked up in jail, charged with being a threat to national security. Their arrests come under a new security law imposed on the semi-autonomous Chinese territory by Beijing that has largely silenced dissent in Hong Kong after months of anti-government protests in 2019. Those now facing charges held a primary election for legislators picked through one of the last vestiges of direct democracy in Hong Kong, the AP reports. On Monday, police brought 47 pro-democracy activists to court on charges of conspiracy to commit subversion brought under the new law. The cases represent the largest mass charge against the opposition camp since the law came into effect last June. The activists are being held without bail and face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if found guilty.

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Supporters gathered outside the courthouse, displaying slogans in favor of the 2019 pro-democracy protests. The pro-democracy camp had held the primaries to determine the best candidates to field to win a majority in the legislature and had plans to vote down major bills that would eventually force Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign. Authorities say the primary was part of a plan to paralyze the government and undermine state power. The 47 people charged include many of Hong Kong's best-known democracy campaigners, some of whom were candidates in the primary, the BBC reports. "Democracy is never a gift from heaven. It must be earned by many with strong will," Jimmy Sham, leader of a nonviolent protest group, said on his way to report to a police station Sunday.

(Read more Hong Kong stories.)

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