The trial of Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) general secretary Lee Cheuk Yan, Martin Lee and five others of the Civil and Human Rights Front under old British colonial laws, for "unauthorised assembly" on 18 August 2019 is scheduled to end on Thursday 18 March, and a verdict expected on 1 April.
Meanwhile, 43 of the 47 taken to court on charges of subversion (under the new National Security Law), are now in prison, remanded until the charges are heard in three months time.
Those charges carry possible life sentences. The 43 include not only the radical young activists particularly active in the 2019 street protests but also leading trade unionists like Carol Ng and Winnie Yu.
Behind the big trials, hundreds of others of lesser known activists face trials, such as the students charged with rioting after the police siege of the occupation of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
A special parliamentary debate was called on 10 March. The government came under heavy criticism from most opposition parties over their failure to activate Magnitsky sanctions (aimed at individuals responsible). John McDonnell MP asked what action was being taken against UK companies operating in Hong Kong, like HSBC and Jardine Matheson, which have supported the National Security Law, and Swire, which have victimised democracy activists.
In Hong Kong, about a thousand congregated outside the court on the first day of the trial of the 47. The police displayed banners declaring the protest to be a illegal gathering and in breach of the National Security Law, but that didn’t move the crowds.
International trade union bodies such as the ITUC and ITF have expressed their solidarity with the 47. They had already declared support for Lee Cheuk Yan.
The arrests of the 47 have been met by street protests in the UK. A demo on 6 March, called by Nottingham Stands With Hong Kong and Labour Solidarity with Hong Kong, attracted sixty people in Nottingham.
Many Hong Kongers are fleeing Hong Kong for the UK. There is talk of 300,000 arriving over the current year. China is trying to get amendments to HK immigration legislation through the Hong Kong’s governing LegCo by 1 August to ban people getting out of Hong Kong.
A small minority of those leaving Hong Kong are very wealthy. However, the majority face second class citizenship: having to prove before entry they can provide for themselves for six months, denied recourse to public funds except in exceptional circumstances. In the worst cases, unable to qualify for the BNO (Overseas) Passport, many will have to apply for refugee status.
Both they and the activists in Hong Kong facing the current legal repression deserve our solidarity.
Eight prominent Hong Kong activists now in exile have started a movement in the diaspora, the "2021 Hong Kong Charter".
The Charter fudges together statements about HK's position in the "Free World" with a soft left "connect with the social movements around the world, such as climate justice and racial equality movements, unite the communities which fight for social justice".