Two Hong Kongers accused of being part of a group that campaigned for international sanctions against China yesterday pleaded guilty under the territory’s National Security Law in a case that is linked to jailed pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai (黎智英).
China imposed the sweeping security legislation last year to wipe out dissent after Hong Kong was rocked by huge and often violent democracy protests.
More than 130 people, including many of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy advocates, have since been arrested under the law.
Democracy activist Andy Li (李宇軒), 31, and paralegal Chan Tsz-wah (陳梓華), 30, admitted to a charge of “colluding with foreign forces to endanger China’s national security.”
Prosecutors said they were part of a group that organized the publishing of adverts and articles in overseas newspapers calling for sanctions against China.
They were in custody ahead of their plea.
Little has been heard in open court about the case against the duo, but they are part of a group of people linked to Lai, who is facing the same national security charge.
Authorities have accused Lai, 73, of running a “criminal syndicate” that lobbied for international sanctions against China over its crackdown in Hong Kong.
At yesterday’s hearing, prosecutors read out a summary of the allegations against the two defendants. In it, they accused Lai and his American aide, Mark Simon, of being “masterminds and financial support behind the scene and at the highest level of the syndicate.”
Chan allegedly delivered Lai and Simon’s instructions to Li.
Simon left Hong Kong last year and has previously described the prosecution against Lai and others as a political witch hunt against Beijing’s critics.
In an e-mail, he said he believed that Li and Chan “are making statements under great duress, with questionable legal representation, and with Andy still having charges in China over his head.”
Lai’s newspaper Apple Daily closed in June after authorities used the security law to freeze its assets over the content of the tabloid’s reporting.
Li was one of 12 Hong Kongers who last year made a failed attempt to flee Hong Kong by speedboat for Taiwan.
They were intercepted by the Chinese coast guard and held in detention until their conviction at a closed hearing for illegal border crossing.
The group were eventually returned to Hong Kong custody.
Charges of Li and Chan assisting offenders over the fugitives case have been shelved by the prosecution as the pair pleaded guilty to the collusion offenses.
They were remanded back into custody following their plea with the next hearing scheduled for January.
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