Hong Kong protest pair swept up in national security crackdown plead guilty

Andy Li and Chan Tsz-wah were accused of conspiring with media mogul Jimmy Lai to call for sanctions on China and Hong Kong

The Hong Kong activist Andy Li and paralegal Chan Tsz-wah have pleaded guilty to foreign collusion, becoming the second and third convictions under the year-old national security law which has been used to crush government opposition in the city.

Li, 31, and Chan, 30, were accused of conspiring with media mogul Jimmy Lai and others between July 2020 and February this year, to lobby external forces to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China. Lai is yet to face trial on the charge.

The pair appeared before judge Alex Lee on Thursday, where they pleaded guilty to “colluding with foreign forces to endanger China’s national security”. They were remanded in custody, with mitigation and sentencing adjourned until a mention in January next year. If found guilty the crime carries a penalty of up to life in prison.

Li made headlines when he was among 12 activists who were detained by the Chinese coast guard while allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat one year ago. He had been arrested just weeks earlier in Hong Kong in a national security roundup of activists and media executives including Lai. Chan, a paralegal, was not among the 12 on the boat but has been accused of helping Li with his alleged attempt to flee.

In March Chinese authorities returned 10 of the 12 passengers, including two minors who had not been prosecuted. Eight, including Li, were found guilty of illegal border crossings. Two others remained in China to serve longer sentences. All had spent the months since their arrest in Chinese detention, where it was alleged they were frequently denied access to lawyers and contact with family.

More than 130 people have been arrested under the national security law, imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020 to broadly criminalise acts of secession, subversion, foreign collusion and terrorism. About half the individuals have been charged. Only one – Tong Ying-kit – has been tried. In July, Tong was convicted of secession and terrorism for crashing his motorbike into police officers while flying a protest flag, and sentenced to nine years in jail.

The ruling sets a steep precedent for cases of speech crimes under the national security law, with the judges finding the flag’s slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution Of Our Times”, to be secessionist because it was “capable” of being interpreted as such.

Contributor

Helen Davidson in Taipei

The GuardianTramp

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