Culture

7 convicted in Hong Kong over 2019 pro-democracy protests

7 convicted in Hong Kong over 2019 pro-democracy protests”

The prosecution of veteran pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong has been held up by their supporters as a severe assault on the freedom of speech and other civil liberties that once were core to the city's identity.

The conviction relates to a rally on 18 August 2019, when an estimated 1.7 million people marched peacefully, but against police orders.

Among them are Martin Lee, an 82-year-old barrister who was once chosen by Beijing to help write Hong Kong's mini-constitution, and Margaret Ng, a 73-year-old barrister and former opposition lawmaker.

Martin Lee, the 82-year old veteran of Hong Kong's struggle for more political rights, is the founding chairman of the Democratic Party.

Apart from Lai, the other six condemned were granted bail: the condition is that they hand over their passport and not leave the city.

Numerous seven have been at the heart of the pro-democracy struggle for years dating back to the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and even further.

The US said on Wednesday that Hong Kong does not warrant preferential treatment under the Hong Kong Policy Act, a law that had allowed Washington to maintain a special relationship with the city.

It has seen him become a hero for many residents in Hong Kong but on the mainland he is viewed as a traitor who threatens Chinese national security.

Martin Lee and Albert Ho

The prosecution had argued the 18 August organisers "deliberately flouted the law" and were disingenuous in claiming they were not leading a march but instead enacting a "dispersal plan" because the police deliberately did not have one, according to Thursday's judgement.

Organizers accounted for 1.7 million protesters that day, representing almost one in four Hong Kongers.

The prosecution of the city's pro-democracy leaders over a peaceful protest has drawn an global outcry.

British lawyer David Perry, hired by the Hong Kong government to be the lead prosecutor, stepped down following withering criticism from both the United Kingdom government and British legal bodies over his decision to take the job. Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, had said Perry was "pretty mercenary" and was giving the Chinese government a public relations win.

In the aftermath of the protests, Beijing took a tough stance on dissent, imposing a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong and approving electoral reforms that would reduce public participation in elections and exclude critics from running for the city's legislature. Two other ex-legislators involved in the same case - Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-Chung - pleaded guilty before the trial began.

Mitigation pleas will be heard before sentences are given when the group next appear in court on April 16.

The defendants, who also include labour organiser Lee Cheuk-yan and former lawmakers Cyd Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, face up to five years in prison.

Lee Cheuk-yan is facing three other trials this year on separate but similar charges, for organising unauthorised assemblies including a 2020 vigil for the Tiananmen Square massacre. In December, Wong pleaded guilty to organising pro-democracy protests, whereas, Lam and Chow pleaded guilty to being part of the protests. They have been charged under the national security law for taking part in an unauthorised anti-government protest in 2019.

More news: RTÉ Beijing correspondent flees China with husband after ‘pressure and threats’



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