China hits back at West's criticism of HKSAR court's verdict on case of conspiracy to subvert state power
Published: May 31, 2024 06:21 PM
Hong Kong residents and tourists visit the Golden Bauhinia Square on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents and tourists visit the Golden Bauhinia Square on March 23, 2024. Photo: VCG

China's central government authorities and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government expressed strong opposition and condemnation against some remarks made by Western countries, anti-China organization and foreign media that smear the rule of law in the city following the verdict of a case of conspiracy to subvert state power. 

The Hong Kong West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts ruled on Thursday that 14 anti-China figures, including former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong Pik-wan, were guilty of conspiracy to subvert state power.

Barrister and former district councilor Lawrence Lau Wai-chung and Lee Yue-shun were acquitted.

After 118 days of public trial, the court, having carefully considered the relevant legal principle and the extensive evidence and arguments from both the prosecution and the defense, clearly stated on Thursday that the case involved conspiracy to subvert state power with the aim of undermining, destroying, or overthrowing the current political system and framework of the HKSAR established by the Basic Law and the One Country, Two Systems policy, a spokesperson from the HKSAR government said on Friday. Such acts of endangering national security have nothing to do with the so-called pursuit of democracy and human rights, said the spokesperson. 

In total, 47 people were prosecuted in this case, and most of them had been convicted previously. Except for two people who were acquitted on Thursday due to insufficient evidence, the other 45 people have all been convicted so far, demonstrating the scale and severity of the criminal plan, the spokesperson said. 

Dozens of former local politicians and extremist separatist activists in other sectors involved in the case, including former legal professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and secessionist Joshua Wong Chi-fung, pleaded guilty in August 2022. 

The Department of Justice of the HKSAR has expressed its intention to appeal the decision regarding the two acquitted defendants.

Some foreign governments and anti-China figures criticized the verdict, expressing the so-called concern over the "deterioration of fundamental freedoms and democratic participation" in the city. The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China called the Biden administration to "sanction judges and prosecutors" for the verdict, according to a public statement. 

In response to comments made by Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong who said Australia is deeply concerned by the verdict, the spokesperson for the European External Action Service, and the consulates general of the US, the UK and some other countries in Hong Kong regarding the lawful judgment by the Hong Kong court, a spokesperson of the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR expressed strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition on late Thursday night. 

It also slammed on Friday the remarks on the verdict made by UK diplomat Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Canadian foreign affairs department, and the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Those remarks openly defame Hong Kong's democracy, freedom, human rights, and rule of law, and wantonly smear Hong Kong's status as an international financial center, while beautifying and exonerating anti-China disruptors in Hong Kong and interfering with the legitimate judiciary of the HKSAR, the commissioner's office's spokesperson said. 

No one can engage in illegal activities under the guise of democracy and expect to escape legal punishment. These anti-China disruptors conspired to seize control of the Legislative Council through the so-called primaries with the intention of paralyzing the HKSAR government, undermining, destroying, or overthrowing the current political system and framework established by the Basic Law and the One Country, Two Systems principle, the commissioner's office's spokesperson noted. 

The judicial authorities of the HKSAR handled the case according to law, fully preventing, stopping and punishing actions that endanger national security. This is reasonable, legal and just, and should not be subject to criticism. The central government firmly supports this, the spokesperson said.

Under the protection of the Basic Law and the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance, all individuals facing criminal charges have the right to a fair trial by an independent judiciary. The courts in the HKSAR conduct trials independently and without interference, the HKSAR government's spokesperson said. 

Some Western countries, anti-China organizations, anti-China politicians, and foreign media, among others, made unwarranted comments on the criminal trials in the HKSAR courts, which is not only highly inappropriate but also disregards the spirit of the rule of law, the spokesperson noted. 

Lau Siu-kai, a consultant from the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies who is also a senior policy advisor, told the Global Times on Friday that the criticism from the West was expected, as it is their routine or designated action with the purpose of smearing China and the HKSAR. 

"In fact, such smear has no impact on the local residents, but rather, it has led to greater disappointment and resentment toward the West," Lau said. 

Local residents have gained a new understanding of the anti-China and chaotic actions of some individuals in Hong Kong over the past few years, and have increasingly lost trust in them. "The residents are indifferent to their arrests and sentencing, and such calm attitude toward the verdict is the best response and counterattack to the criticism from the West," the expert said. 

Such inappropriate criticism is putting pressure and undue influence to the three judges, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator and deputy secretary-general of the Hong Kong Association for Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China, told the Global Times on Friday. 

"Hong Kong court would only make judgment as well as consider the verdict and sentencing based on law and facts," Chu said, noting that foreign countries are not in position to comment on China's domestic cases in relation to national security offenses.