Human rights investigators at the United Nations (UN) have raised the alarm concerning mass trials carried out on democracy activists months ago as part of Hong Kong’s repressive National Security Law (NSL).
During the “subversion” trial that began in February, 47 defendants came before the court. Many of them, including elected legislators, activists, social workers, academics, trade unionists, and journalists had “stood for election” in unofficial primaries in July 2020, a statement published on Oct. 9, reads.
Their arrests triggered worldwide condemnation against the communist government of China, with people urging others to stand up to Beijing’s oppression.
“We are very troubled about the use of mass trials in national security law cases and how they may negatively affect safeguards that ensure due process and the right to fair trial,” the statement read.
“The charges appear to seek to punish statements allegedly made by each individual criticizing the Chinese government’s policies and their activities in support of democracy in Hong Kong,” the experts added.
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The investigators, Margaret Satterthwaite, Fionnuala Ni Aolain, Clement Nyaletsossi Voule and Irene Khan, make up the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, who claim they were in contact with Beijing.
“China should review its National Security Law to ensure that the law is in compliance with China’s international human rights obligations with respect to… Hong Kong,” they said.
“We stand ready to engage in dialogue with Chinese authorities on this very important matter,” the statement added.
Following the investigators’ opposition, the government of Hong Kong dismissed their “erroneous comments,” arguing that the 47 defendants “had the right to a fair trial,” the South China Morning Post (SCMP), wrote.
“Endangering national security law is a serious crime, and no country would stand idly by in the face of actions and activities that threaten national security,” a spokesman of the city’s government said.
Since the aftermath of the 2019 protest movement, more than 10,000 people have been apprehended by the government and 1,618 of them were classified as political prisoners, the U.S.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council said. 230 were arrested under the national security law, which forbids criticism of China’s communist government.
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Targeted overseas for a price
In addition to the mass trials, the UN team also warned about bounties placed by Hong Kong on eight opposition activists, who are all currently abroad. It is said up to one million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000) has been offered for information that could be used in a prosecution against these individuals.
The eight targets are former legislators Nathan Law Kwun-ching, Dennis Kwok Wing-hang and Ted Hui Chi-fung, trade unionist Mung Siu-tat, lawyer Kevin Yam Kin-fung, and activists Finn Lau Cho-dik, Anna Kwok Fung-yee and Elmer Yuan Gong-yi.
“The charges appear to seek to punish statements allegedly made by each individual criticizing the Chinese government’s policies and their activities in support of democracy in Hong Kong,” the UN team said.
Dennis Kwok and Kevin Yam have also been targeted for disbarment proceedings by “professional bodies.”
Ted Hui, who is currently exiled in Australia, said that the authorities are also harassing family members in Hong Kong.
“The families of six out of the eight of us have been badly harassed,” Hui said. “Some were taken away to the police station for questioning in the early morning.”
“It doesn’t matter how much political propaganda it carries out in Hong Kong or China — [the Chinese Communist Party’s] lies won’t deceive the whole world,” Hui said.
Elsewhere, Chow Hang-tung, a Hong Kong Tiananmen massacre vigil organizer, has been placed in solitary confinement, awaiting trial for “inciting” others to participate in a vigil for the massacre victims.
“This time has really changed her — her lips are chapped and she has gotten so thin she looks like a Barbie doll…” fellow vigil organizer Lau Ka Yee said after visiting Chow in prison. “But her mental state is still healthy, and her stubborn insistence on always choosing the path of good is still strong.”