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14 Hong Kong democrats found guilty of subversion

A Hong Kong judge said 14 people were found guilty of subversion at the start of a verdict hearing for the city’s biggest case against the pro-democracy bloc since China imposed a national security law to crush dissent.

Judge Andrew Chan named the 14 defendants found guilty of the charge.

The verdict comes more than three years after police arrested 47 democrats in mass dawn raids at homes across Hong Kong, later charging them with “conspiracy to commit subversion” under a China-imposed national security law.

Earlier, scores of police officers and vehicles patrolled the High Court area as prison vehicles began bringing the 16 defendants to court. Some supporters queued overnight to secure a spot.

“I came because it’s a critical stage and a historical moment (for Hong Kong),” said a man surnamed Chiu, 35, who began waiting at midnight. “They (the democrats) all stood up for themselves and for Hong Kong people, hoping to make a change.”

The criminal trial is the biggest ever against Hong Kong’s democratic opposition and is being closely watched internationally, with diplomats from the US, Britain and Europe having attended court proceedings.

A member of the League of Social Democrats is taken away by police after they carried a banner outside a court in Hong Kong

Mass pro-democracy protests erupted in Hong Kong in 2019 over new security laws planned by Beijing, which democrats argued infringed on freedoms guaranteed when Hong Kong was handed back to China by the British in 1997.

Known as the 47 democrats’ case, the charges centre around an unofficial pre-selection ballot in July 2020 that prosecutors called a “vicious plot” to paralyse government.

The democrats maintain it was an unofficial attempt to select the strongest candidates for a citywide election in a bid to win a historic majority in Hong Kong’s legislature.

High Court Judges Alex Lee, Andrew Chan and Johnny Chan are expected to deliver their verdict during hearings scheduled for today and Friday, according to the judiciary website.

Most of the accused have been detained for more than 1,000 days since 28 February 2021, and were subjected to marathon bail hearings.

Countries including the US have criticised the trial as politically motivated, and have called for the accused to be immediately released.

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