4th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) In a marathon trial that lasted 118 days, the defence presented their closing arguments today, 4th December, at the West Kowloon Law Courts.
The case involves 47 pro-democracy individuals who participated in the 2020 Legislative Council primaries and are accused of conspiring to subvert the national political power. The defence argued that if Legislative Council members rejected the budget proposal, it was based on the government’s failure to address the five major demands, making it difficult to claim that they did not scrutinise the budget. They further stated that any legal loopholes in the provisions should be addressed by other institutions, not the court. Following the completion of the closing arguments by both the prosecution and defence, the trial officially concluded. The judge expressed intentions to handle the ruling promptly, with an estimated timeframe of three to four months.
The defence barrister pointed out that the prosecution accused the defendants of considering matters unrelated to the budget and not simply rejecting the proposal. However, the Basic Law, which serves as Hong Kong’s constitutional document, does not explicitly specify what matters legislators can or cannot consider when examining bills or proposals. The defence argued that if Legislative Council members found that the budget did not address the five major demands and subsequently voted against it, no one could accuse them of not having scrutinised the contents of the budget. They emphasised that while there may be loopholes in the relevant provisions, it is not the court’s responsibility to fill those gaps, as doing so would be an abuse of judicial power.
Regarding the charge of subversion of state power under Article 22 of the National Security Law, the law explicitly states that using “force, violence, or other illegal means” to subvert state power constitutes a crime. The defence barrister argued that the term “other illegal means” should be interpreted in line with the preceding sentence, which refers to physical coercion. When asked by the judge if hacking into government networks or intentionally spreading the COVID-19 virus would violate National Security Law, the defence barrister responded that such actions could constitute offences related to terrorism but would not fall under the category of subverting state power. Including civil offences such as defamation within the scope of “other illegal means” would render it overly broad.