14 Pro-Democracy Activists Arrested in Hong Kong for Subversion

On Thursday, fourteen pro-democracy activists were found guilty in the most significant national security case in Hong Kong. The prosecution said that their plot to hold an unauthorized primary election in order to bring about change would have caused a constitutional crisis and endangered the authority of the government.

Obtaining the parliamentary majority required to veto budgets indiscriminately was alleged by prosecutors as an effort to cripple the Hong Kong administration and depose the city’s governor. The participants in the election had already stated their intention to veto the budgets using their legislative power.

Reducing public choice in elections, crackdowns on media, and the Beijing-imposed security law that led to the activists’ convictions have all but stifled dissent in Hong Kong since a 2019 protest movement flooded the city’s streets with protestors. 

In 2021, the activists were accused of participating in the primary together with 47 other advocates for democracy.

The city’s mini-constitution states that if a budget cannot be enacted, the chief executive has the power to dissolve the legislature. However, if the budget is vetoed again in the following legislature, the leader is required to stand down. 

Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun, both of whom had served as district councilors, were found not guilty. It has been announced that the prosecution would be appealing the acquittals. Among the 47 activists who were indicted were Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Joshua Wong, a former student leader; and Leung and Claudia Mo, two of a dozen former MPs. Among the 31 who entered guilty pleas were Tai, Wong, and Mo. They will be sentenced at a later date and have a higher chance of receiving shorter jail sentences.

The goal of the June 2020 unofficial primary was to narrow the field of pro-democracy candidates so that they may compete in the 2020 general election. A total of 610,000 people cast ballots, which is more than thirteen percent of the city’s eligible voters. At the time, pro-democracy activists were hoping to gain a parliamentary majority so they could push for the demands of the 2019 protests, which included more transparency from the police and open elections for the city council.