Two Hong Kong activists, accused of being part of a group that campaigned for international sanctions against China, have pleaded guilty under the territory’s national security law in a case linked to jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
Democracy activist Andy Li, 31, and paralegal Chan Tsz-wah, 29, admitted to a charge of “colluding with foreign forces to endanger China’s national security” on Thursday.
Prosecutors said they were part of a group that organised the publishing of advertisements and articles in overseas newspapers calling for sanctions. Both had been held in custody ahead of their plea. Li was previously jailed in China as one of a group of 12 people intercepted by mainland authorities in August 2020 on a boat believed to be en route to Taiwan.
China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last year following months of mass protests in 2019 against a proposed – and later scrapped – extradition law and evolved into calls for safeguarding democracy.
More than 130 people, including many of the city’s best-known democracy advocates, have since been arrested under the law.
The court heard Li was instructed by Lai, a prominent China critic who is in prison for illegal assembly charges and faces his own national security trial, to help lobby for sanctions against Hong Kong and China. High Court Judge Alex Lee adjourned the court until January 3, 2022.
“I agree to the facts and I would like to say sorry,” Li told the court after the prosecutor read out a long list of the facts of the case. Prosecutors dropped two other charges against him following his guilty plea.
Chan was also convicted on Thursday and is due to return to court in January. Both men face potential life terms. Authorities have accused 73-year-old Lai and a network of supporters of breaking the security law by supporting international sanctions against China over its crackdown in Hong Kong.
Lai’s popular newspaper Apple Daily closed down in June after authorities used the security law to freeze its assets, and detained senior members of staff. Prosecutors have refused to say whether Li and Chan will become prosecution witnesses in Lai’s trial.