(NYTIMES) On Sunday, the Hong Kong authorities charged 47 pro-democracy activists with "conspiracy to commit subversion" against the Chinese government under the national security law it imposed on the city last summer. Beijing must be happy with the catch, which elegantly nets under a single accusation both advocates of outright independence for Hong Kong and the city's old-school loyal opposition. The People's Republic of China is safe now. Glory to its leader.
But what exactly was these criminals' crime? Organising or taking part in primaries last July ahead of legislative elections initially scheduled for September, and for daring to strategise. Were the pro-democracy camp to win a majority, some participants said at the time, it could vote down the government's budget, possibly forcing it to resign. Under Hong Kong law, the city's chief executive must step down if the budget is defeated twice.