Hong Kong’s Department of Justice is planning to bring the case against 47 pro-democracy figures to a higher-level court in a move that could send the defendants behind bars for life, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The group was in March arrested under the Beijing-imposed national security law. A total of 36 activists have been kept in custody. While the case was scheduled to be heard at the District Court on Monday, sources said the prosecution was requesting the judiciary adjourn the hearing to July 8 so that it could apply for a referral to the High Court for trial.
The case marks the largest-scale crackdown on Hong Kong’s civil freedom so far. The 47 activists were charged with subverting state power for participating in an unofficial primary last year to choose pro-democracy candidates for the since-postponed legislative election.
If the justice department succeeds in bringing the case to the High Court, the maximum penalty each defendant could face would be greatly increased from seven years’ imprisonment to a life sentence.
According to Article 22 of the national security law, those charged with organizing or committing serious crimes would be sentenced to at least 10 years in jail or life imprisonment.
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