Hong Kong: Who are the 47 pro-democracy activists?

Hong Kong: Who are the 47 pro-democracy activists?

Yvette Tan,BBC News

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Some of Hong Kong’s most well-known pro-democracy politicians, from a 68-year-old past criticism lawmaker to a 27-year-old student activist, are waiting for a ruling on usurpation charges this week.

They are among 47 protesters and activists – better known as the Hong Kong 47 – who were charged three years ago in what was seen as the biggest crackdown under the National Security Law (NSL) imposed by China.

Officials claimed that the 47, which includes eight people and 39 males, were trying to “overthrow” the state by holding illegal primaries to get opposition candidates for local elections.

In disobedience of Hong Kong authorities and amid warnings that they might violate the NSL, which had been in effect weeks prior, the elections were held in July 2020.

Beijing defends the laws, which followed large pro- politics protests, when necessary to maintain balance, but critics say it has stripped the city of its beloved autonomy and freedoms.

The Hong Kong 47 are who?

Some are popular, such as criticism legislators- Claudia Mo, Helena Wong, Kwok ka- ki- and images of the 2014 pro- politics demonstrations that rocked Hong Kong- Joshua Wong and Benny Tai.

However, many of the protesters who spoke out, such as Tiffany Yuen, Ventus Lau, and Owen Chow, were of a younger technology. In what turned out to be a crucial moment for the 2019 protests, Mr. Lau and Mr. Chow were among the hundreds who stormed the city’s Legislative Council ( LegCo ) and spray-painted Hong Kong’s emblem.

Additionally, there are those who were not politically active but were inspired by the protests in 2019: Winnie Yu, a former caregiver, Hendrick Lui, and companies like Mike Lam.

Sixteen of the 47 have pleaded not guilty and, if convicted on Thursday, may remain jailed for career, although imprisonment is expected later.

The remaining 31 have pleaded guilty. Four of them testifed for the prosecution, including past politicians Au Nok- hero and Andrew Chiu. Although this usually results in a shorter phrase, whether or not it applies to the NSL is a mystery.

They must choose between admitting guilt to a non-existent violence and facing a possible word reduction, or fighting a lost battle under the unfair national security law, according to Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director Dana Young in a statement.

Another well-known figures, including Ted Hui and Nathan Law, also ran in the elections, but they both eluded Hong Kong.

By the time the 47 were detained in early 2021, the majority of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy action was either imprisoned or in captivity. Since then, the majority of the accused have been locked up because NSL has made pre-trial punishments the standard.

The teacher- Benny Tai

Getty Images Benny Tai at a rally Getty Images

China called him a “hardcore agitator” for advocating Hong Kong democracy and describing the Communist Party’s law as a “dictatorship”.

Benny Tai, a professor and law professor, first attracted attention when he suggested an hold sit-in to promote greater democracy. He wrote a paper column.

This ultimately led to the pro-democracy Occupy Central motion he founded along with two others. It was a landmark civil rebellion campaign that demanded free and fair elections in Hong Kong.

Five years after the movement ended, Mr. Tai was given a jail sentence for his actions in the demonstrations.

A year later, after the NSL was imposed, he was fired from his tenured job at the prestigious University of Hong Kong ( HKU) over his criminal conviction.

Mr. Tai alleged that the school was” clinging to Taiwanese pressure” and called it the “end of intellectual independence” in the city.

” I am heartbroken to see the fate of my favorite university”, the 60- yr- old afterward said in a Facebook post.

By that time, he was now facing subterfuge allegations under the NSL for organizing what Hong Kong and Beijing officials called an “illegal” key.

The scholar- Joshua Wong

Getty Johsua Wong screams as he is detained at a pro-democracy protest Getty

Probably Hong Kong’s most popular pro- politics activist, Joshua Wong’s journey into advocacy started when he was simply 14.

By 2014, he was the face of the Umbrella Movement, a large-scale student protests that sprung up alongside the Occupy Central sit-in. It featured the overcoat as a symbol.

He was just 20 when his activism first landed him in jail. He had more spells in jail, including one in 2019, when he walked out a day after hundreds of thousands marched against a hugely controversial extradition bill – it would allow Hong Kongers to be sent to mainland China to face trial.

Hong Kong was engulfed for decades by the protests against the costs. In June of that year, Mr. Wong was one of the thousands of people who squatted the police office for 15 hours in Thin Chai area, spraying graffiti on its windows and pelting it with egg.

According to the prosecution, he led the demonstration and allegedly called for the audience to” completely besiege police office.” Although Mr Wong was a properly- known activist, the 2019 demonstrations were commonly seen as a spontaneous, “leaderless” motion.

He was jailed for his part in them- and placed in solitary confinement.

However, he continued to be angry after entering a guilty plea, saying,” Perhaps the authorities want me to serve one more word in prison.” However, I believe that neither prison bars, election ban, nor any other subjective powers may prevent us from activism.

He was also serving his sentence at the time of his subterfuge charge under NSL.

The’ ground-breaking’- Long tresses

Getty Leung Kwok-hung held a yellow umbrella in LegCoGetty

Previous opposition lawmaker Leung Kwok- hung, better known as Long Hair for his bouffant, previously described himself as a” Communist revolution”.

The 68-year-old was known for his political theatrics, and one of his signature stunts was to hurl bananas in protest. When he was sworn in as a new lawmaker in 2016, he declared that the” Umbrella movement would never end” and held a balloon with a political banner.

This got him disqualified from the council. He was detained and served numerous jail time periods for his participation in the protests in 2019.

After the NSL was imposed in 2020, he married his long- time partner, Vanessa Chan, also known as Chan Po- ying, who is a prominent activist. They were one of the League of Social Democrats ‘ founding members.

They claimed they had chosen to wed because they would have more legal protections, including prison visits, should one of them be imprisoned.

Forty days after the wedding, Mr Leung was charged with subversion over the primary.

Claudia Mo, a long-time activist,

Getty Claudia Mo in LegCo Getty

A well-known opposition lawmaker, Claudia Mo was known affectionately in Cantonese as Auntie Mo.

She had been a journalist at the AFP news agency, where she covered the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The 67-year-old helped establish the opposition Civic Party in 2006 and, by 2012, she had won a seat in LegCo, where she had previously given up British citizenship to run for office.

She was among 15 lawmakers who resigned en masse from LegCo after four pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted in November 2020. The move left LegCo with no opposition presence.

“We had to,” she said at the time. “We need to protest against what could be the ultimate Beijing crackdown on Hong Kong – to silence the last bit of dissent in the city.”

Police “smashed through into the living room” to arrest her in the early hours of 6 January 2021, the FT reported, citing an unnamed source who described the raid as “sheer thuggery”.

She has been in jail throughout. When her husband, British journalist Philip Bowring, was critically ill, Ms Mo was not allowed to visit him from prison.

The LGBT campaigner- Jimmy Sham

Getty Jimmy Sham at a protest Getty

A long- time political and LGBTQI activist, Jimmy Sham also led one of Hong Kong’s largest pro- democracy groups, the Civil Human Rights Front ( CHRF ).

The group disbanded in 2021, saying it could no longer operate amid “unprecedented” challenges posed by China’s crackdown.

Mr Sham was violently attacked several times in 2019, and in one instance, was left bloodied on the street, with a head injury. The CHRF at the time falsely accused government supporters of this and other instances of pro-democracy activists, but it was never proven.

The 37-year-old battled for Hong Kong to recognize same-sex marriages from other countries after his partner married in New York in 2013. In 2023, Hong Kong’s highest court ordered the government to establish a framework to allow same-sex relationships, which led to his partial victory.

By that time, Mr. Sham was imprisoned for his part in the Hong Kong primaries.

Bail has been repeatedly denied, with a judge claiming that he was a “determined and resolute young man” who would likely continue to commit “acts endangering national security” should he be freed.

Gwyneth Ho, the journalist,

Getty Gwyneth Ho Getty

Gwyneth Ho, a 33-year-old woman, previously worked for various news organizations, including BBC China, RTHK, and Stand News before turning to politics.

She gained notoriety when she unintentionally live-streamed herself being beat up by a mob during the protests in 2019. The attack put her in hospital.

She won a sizable portion of the votes in her constituency in the 2020 primaries that Hong Kong officials ruled unlawful. Less than a year later, she was arrested.

She said during her trial that it was “inevitable” that the 12 pro-democracy candidates, including her, were disqualified from contesting the legislative elections.

” I think most Hong Kongers were aware from the beginning that fighting for democracy under the Chinese communist regime was a fantasy,” she said.

High Court Judge Alex Lee, who had earlier ordered her to” calm down,” quickly stopped her.