If the defendants are denied bail, it would mean that most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy figures would be in jail or in self-exile abroad amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
The activists are accused of organising and participating in an unofficial primary poll last July aimed at selecting the strongest candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the coronavirus.
The charges against a total of 47 opposition figures represent the most sweeping use yet of Hong Kong’s new security law, which punishes what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Security forces shot dead at least 20 people on Monday in addition to the 74 killed a day earlier, including many in a suburb of Yangon where Chinese-financed factories were torched, according to advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The group of activists were convicted for their involvement in a protest held on Aug.18, 2019. Organizers of the protest say that 1.7 million people marched that day in protest of a proposed bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.
Hong Kong traditionally holds the largest vigil in the world every year, although it was banned in 2020, with authorities giving the risk of spreading the coronavirus as the reason. The vigils have always been banned in mainland China.
The two were among nine prominent activists whose trial got under way in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The nine were arrested with several others in April last year in what was seen as a move to crack down on dissent.
It would be the first time that Lai, one of Hong Kong's most prominent democratic activists, who has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security trial, will receive a sentence.
Activists urged people this year to stage symbolic protests from the start of the holiday on Tuesday, including by painting a three-finger salute used by demonstrators on traditional Thingyan pots filled with flowers, which are typically displayed at this time.