Fourteen pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been convicted of subversion while billionaire Catholic convert Jimmy Lai, 76, remains imprisoned and on trial on similar charges.

The 14 were among 47 activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion through an unofficial primary election in 2020 under a national security law passed by China following anti-government protests that year. It is the same law being used to prosecute Lai. 

On Thursday, the court ruled that the dissidents’ activism would have caused a “constitutional crisis for Hong Kong.”

Lai, who has been imprisoned for three years, remains in the midst of his own trial. In January, he pleaded not guilty to the national security law charges brought against him. 

Frances Hui, policy and advocacy coordinator for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, told “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol that the latest convictions were “not a surprising result.”

Hui noted that most of the activists were denied bail and, like Lai, have been in jail for more than three and a half years during the lengthy court process.

“It’s definitely absurd to see the CCP’s [Chinese Community Party’s] scale — how extensive they will go to suppress people’s freedom and rights,” Hui continued. “These 47 people, they are all criminalized just because they are participating and organizing democratic primaries to elect their candidates.” 

Sixteen of the activists pleaded not guilty, while the other 31 who pleaded guilty “are still waiting for their final verdict and sentencing,” Hui added. 

More in Asia - Pacific

“We’re looking at a minimum of three years in prison to life sentencing for primary offenders,” she continued. “There are definitely more to come.”

When asked about Lai, Hui said to expect “a very heavy prosecution going on. He is probably one of the most prominent face[s] for peaceful demonstration,” she explained.

“I think with how many witnesses that the prosecutors are bringing in, it would seem that we can predict that there would be pretty egregious sentence coming in,” Hui explained.

“There is a need for democratic countries, including the U.S., to continue to speak up and to secure for his release, continue to ask for his release with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] officials,” Hui concluded.