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May 30, 2024, 5:19am EDT
East Asia
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Semafor Signals

Hong Kong convicts 14 pro-democracy activists in key security trial

Insights from Associated Press and South China Morning Post

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People lining up outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts building before the verdict
Tyrone Siu/Reuters
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The News

A Hong Kong court on Thursday convicted 14 pro-democracy activists of subversion. It marks the most severe use of a 2020 Beijing-imposed National Security Law that effectively silenced freedom of speech in the territory.

In 2021, authorities arrested 47 pro-democracy organizers and lawmakers, accusing them of trying to “paralyze” the Hong Kong government after they mobilized more than 600,000 people to cast votes in an election in favor of a pro-democracy group seeking to regain a majority in the city’s legislature. Of those arrested, 31 pleaded guilty to national security offenses.

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The court said the activists’ plan would have created a “constitutional crisis.” Two campaigners were acquitted, but the prosecution said they would appeal the decision. The ruling solidifies Beijing’s grip over Hong Kong’s once-independent judicial system, and further isolates it from the West.


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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Verdict tests limits of Hong Kong’s security law

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Associated Press

Hong Kong maintains that its judicial system is independent of China, but the verdict reflects how the National Security Law has remade the judiciary to “crack down on Hong Kong’s political opposition,” according to the Associated Press. The verdict also shows how great a threat Beijing sees non-violent protests, one Georgetown University researcher said.

Negative political perception impacts Western tourism

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Source:  
South China Morning Post

The number of tourists traveling to Hong Kong from the United States as well as countries like France, Germany, and the Netherlands has halved from 2019, the same year that pro-democracy demonstrations rattled the city for several months, according to the South China Morning Post. Hong Kong’s government has blamed the decline on the exchange rate between the US dollar and euro and the Hong Kong dollar, with Western tourists prioritizing trips to Japan because of the weak yen. But visitors to Singapore — a city as expensive as Hong Kong — are increasing. Rather, one couple told the outlet that they were “a bit apprehensive” to travel to Hong Kong because of the political situation.

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