29 of 47 defendants who participated in the pro-democracy “35+” primary election plead guilty to conspiracy to subvert state power

Joshua Wong

18th August 2022 – (Hong Kong) 47 pro-democracy activists who initiated or participated in the pro-democracy “35+” primary election in 2020 were suspected of violating the “Hong Kong National Security Law” and were charged with conspiracy to subvert state power. All 47 defendants have completed the transfer procedure of the proceedings to the High Court.

During the transfer procedure, 29 defendants including Claudia Mo, Benny Tai, Au Nok-hin, Gary Fan, Fergus Leung, Nathan Lau, Wong Pak-yu, Jimmy Sham, Andrew Chiu, Tam Tak-Chi and Joshua Wong pleaded guilty and they will be transferred to the High Court for sentencing.

On 6th January 2021, Tai was among 55 members of the pro-democratic camp who were arrested under the national security law, specifically its provision regarding subversion. The group stood accused of organising and participating in unofficial primary elections held by the camp in July 2020. Tai was released on bail on 7 January 2021.

In April 2019, Tai was found guilty of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and inciting others to cause public nuisance. He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

Having risen to political prominence as a teenager, the 2020 Hong Kong Legislative Council Election, due on 6 September, was the first at which Wong was eligible to stand. He announced his candidacy on 20 July, following his poll-topping endorsement by 30,000 voters in the democratic camp’s unofficial primaries.

However, just 10 days later, and five weeks ahead of the (later postponed) election, the government stated that Joshua Wong was among a dozen pro-democracy candidates whose nominations were ‘invalid’, under the same opaque process that had seen him struck from candidacy in the previous year’s District Council election, in which, nominally, civil servants – returning officers – assess whether, for instance, a candidate had objected to the enactment of the national security law, or was sincere in statements made disavowing separatism.

On 29th January 2021, Wong pleaded guilty to two additional charges related to his involvement in a rally on Hong Kong Island on 5th October 2019 by taking part in an unauthorised assembly and wearing a facial covering during an unauthorised assembly.

On 13th April 2021 Wong was sentenced to four months in jail for unauthorised assembly and violating an anti-mask law.

On 6th May 2021, the Hong Kong District Court sentenced Wong to ten more months in prison for participating in an unauthorised assembly to mark the 2020 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The judge who sentenced him said that “The sentence should deter people from offending and re-offending in the future.

In late February 2021 after being charged with subversion, Claudia Mo was under custody again, and on 4th March, she was among only 15 of the 47 defendants in the case to be granted bail. However, she remained in custody pending an appeal by the Hong Kong government. She was denied bail in mid-April, with a judgement releasing in late May considering the argument of the prosecution that her exchanges on WhatsApp with Western media were a “threat to national security”.