Twenty-nine Hong Kong activists, including Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Joshua Wong Chi-fung, pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to subvert State power－an offense under the National Security Law for Hong Kong－by unlawfully organizing and participating in "primary polls" for the legislative election that was originally scheduled in 2020.
The "polls" were a significant step in the well-plotted plan to win the majority of legislature seats and veto all government bills to topple the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's government.
The 29 defendants admitted their guilt during a trial at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts. Former lawmaker Claudia Mo Manching, Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick are also on the list. Their cases were transferred to the High Court, and will be heard in September and November.
Implemented in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, the National Security Law prohibits any act of subversion or secession, terrorist activities or collusion with external forces to endanger national security. The subversion offense carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. It can also lead to a minimum jail term of 10 years for serious cases.
The 29 are among the 47 participants in the "primary polls", including former legislators, district councilors, labor union leaders and businesspeople, who were arrested last January on the charge of "conspiracy to commit subversion" under the National Security Law.
Eighteen defendants in the case pleaded not guilty, including former lawmaker Lam Cheukting and activist Leung Kwokhung. They will be tried at the High Court at an as yet unspecified date.
According to the almost 150-page case report, Tai, then a law professor at the University of Hong Kong, organized and coordinated the "primary polls" by publishing articles on media platforms from December 2019. He also published a clear road map of the unlawful scheme, which stated that his ultimate goal was to overthrow the Hong Kong government and place the city under sanction by foreign nations.
The "primary polls" took place on July 11 and 12, 2020, shortly after the implementation of the National Security Law. As a result of the pandemic, the legislative elections scheduled for September 2020 were postponed until December 2021.
By launching the "polls", Tai and the other defendants aimed to help the opposition win a majority in the legislature. After that, opposition lawmakers would block all bills proposed by the government and force the chief executive to dissolve the legislature and resign, leading to the paralysis of the government.
In addition to organizers like Tai, other defendants also supported the scheme or joined as candidates. Some organizations also helped raise money and recruit volunteers for the "polls", according to the report.