First guilty pleas under Hong Kong’s newly-drafted national security law

Li and Chan apologised in the court of law during the hearing, signalling pressure over the activists opposing the law.

Arpan Rai
Thursday 19 August 2021 15:30 BST
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<p>Armed police stand guard as a prison van leaves West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts in Hong Kong</p>

Armed police stand guard as a prison van leaves West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts in Hong Kong

Hong Kong activists pleaded guilty to colluding in a conspiracy with foreign forces in a case against media mogul Jimmy Lai, in the first such case under the highly contentious national security law drafted by the Chinese government.

Andy Li and Chan Tsz have been accused of advocating foreign funds against China and helping nearly a dozen activists to flee Taiwan.

By pleading guilty on Thursday, the duo are set to be sentenced under the Beijing-imposed security legislation next year. The law, which was widely protested by millions in Hong Kong bans secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. Those found guilty can face life in prison.

Mr Li and Mr Chan apologised in court during the hearing, signalling pressure over the activists opposing the law.

“I agree to the facts and I would like to say sorry,” Li was quoted as saying by the Hong Kong Free Press.

Lead prosecutor Anthony Chau read out the case and a long summary of the facts that termed Mr Lai and his aide Mark Simon as the “masterminds” of the conspiracy, the report added.

Denouncing the prosecution of the activists, the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) – a coalition of international cross-party group of legislators – said the men had done nothing wrong and that Hong Kong’s legal system had been exposed to the world.

“These politically motivated prosecutions leave the free world in no doubt regarding the decline of Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal processes, where a once-respected common law system has been reduced to a toll of the Chinese state,” the statement by IPAC read.

The statement added: “These men have done nothing wrong. They are victims of an unjust law which stands in clear violation of international norms and treaties.”

Mr Li has already served a seven-month sentence on the charges of illegal border crossing before being returned to Hong Kong in March.

The “draconian” legislation has already paved the way for the arrest of more than 130 people – mainly journalists, activists and former lawmakers. The US has recently sanctioned Chinese officials, including Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, for ordering a crackdown on citizens.

Close to 50 activists and politicians have also been charged under the security law after they were accused of participating in an informal primary election last year. The cases will be heard next month.

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