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Hong Kongers plead guilty to national security charge

China imposed the sweeping security law last year to wipe out dissent after the financial hub was rocked by huge protests

AFP, Hong Kong

AFP, Hong Kong

Published: August 19, 2021 06:17 AM GMT

Updated: August 19, 2021 06:26 AM GMT

Hong Kongers plead guilty to national security charge

A view of Tamar Park in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy activists are facing increasing repression. (Photo: AFP)

Two Hong Kongers accused of being part of a group that campaigned for international sanctions against China have pleaded guilty under the city's national security law in a case linked to jailed Catholic pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

China imposed the sweeping security law on Hong Kong last year to wipe out dissent after the financial hub was rocked by huge and often violent democracy protests.

More than 130 people, including many of the city's best-known democracy advocates, have since been arrested under the law.

Democracy activist Andy Li, 31, and paralegal Chan Tsz-wah, 30, admitted to a charge of "colluding with foreign forces to endanger China's national security" on Aug. 19.

Prosecutors said they were part of a group that organised the publishing of adverts and articles in overseas newspapers calling for sanctions against China. Both were in custody ahead of their plea.

Little has been heard in open court about the case but the men are part of a group linked to media tycoon Lai, who faces the same national security charge.

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

Authorities have accused Lai, 73, of running a "criminal syndicate" that lobbied for international sanctions against China over its crackdown in Hong Kong.

At the Aug. 19 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.

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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.

Lai's popular Apple Daily newspaper closed down 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 made a failed attempt to flee the city by speedboat for Taiwan last summer.

They were intercepted by the Chinese coastguard and held in detention until their conviction at a closed hearing for illegal border crossing.

Charges of Li and Chan assisting offenders over the fugitives' case have been shelved

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 offences.

They were remanded back into custody following their plea, with the next hearing scheduled for January next year.

The case against Lai and his co-accused has yet to come to court.

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