Security chief criticises convicted opposition figures for destabilising government and inciting constitutional crisis

Chris Tang

30th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) A Hong Kong court has delivered guilty verdicts for 14 out of 16 opposition figures who faced subversion charges in a landmark national security case. The remaining two defendants were acquitted, marking the first such decision since the imposition of the law in 2020. However, the government has announced its intention to appeal the acquittals.

The court found that the activists’ participation in an election they labeled a “primary” was aimed at subverting state power by maximizing the opposition’s chances of gaining control over the Legislative Council and overthrowing both local and central governments. Among the 47 individuals involved in the case, these 16 defendants formed a significant part of the largest prosecution under Hong Kong’s national security law, which was introduced by Beijing in response to the city’s prolonged social unrest.

The trial gained international attention, with Western countries denouncing it as an assault on democracy and human rights, while Beijing characterized the opposition-led primary as a direct challenge to the law. Prior to the trial, 31 of the defendants pleaded guilty, and those denied bail will have spent 1,186 days in detention by the time the verdict is announced at West Kowloon Court.

In a post-verdict press conference, Secretary for Security Chris Tang expressed that out of the 47 individuals, 45 were found guilty, emphasising that the defendants aimed to paralyse the government. Tang stated that the defendants aimed to paralyde the government, inevitably leading to political instability and a constitutional crisis in Hong Kong, which would have a detrimental impact on the socio-economic structure. He vehemently criticised them as “extremely vile, ugly, and malicious.”

The two individuals who were acquitted, Lawrence Lau and Lee Yue-shun, represent the first cases under the national security law to result in acquittals. While they were allowed to leave the dock, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Maggie Yang, requested an extension of their bail conditions pending a potential appeal by the prosecution. Both Lau and Lee’s representatives did not oppose the request, but they may consider related applications following a review of the verdict.

Regarding the arrest of activists from the League of Social Democrats outside the West Kowloon court prior to the verdict, including the wife of one of the defendants, Mr. Tang explained that these individuals were causing nuisance and engaging in disorderly conduct, leading to their arrest. As for the granting of bail to five individuals in the Chow Hang-tung case, he clarified that out of the seven arrested, five were bailed, one is still under investigation, and one remains remanded in connection with other cases. Ongoing investigations are underway.

When questioned about the significance of the verdict and whether the government sees it as a major victory, as well as the acquittal of two defendants, Mr. Tang emphasised that there are no winners in this case. He expressed sadness over the fact that some Hong Kong citizens attempted subversion, but commended the intervention that prevented harm to the people and allowed Hong Kong to return to normalcy. In response to criticisms from the EU, the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, the .S.S, and various NGOs regarding human rights and political freedoms in the city, Mr. Tang acknowledged the smear campaigns conducted by external forces throughout the trial against the Judiciary, the Department of Justice, and law enforcement agencies. However, he expressed pride in the dedication and integrity of the court, the Department of Justice staff, and law enforcement officers, considering them a source of pride for Hong Kong.