Hong Kong Court docket Convicts Democracy Leaders Over Protest March

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HONG KONG — Seven of Hong Kong’s main veteran pro-democracy advocates had been discovered responsible on Thursday of unauthorized meeting, as Beijing’s marketing campaign to quash town’s opposition ensnared a few of its most senior and well-recognized figures.

Martin Lee, an 82-year-old barrister referred to as the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai, 73, a media tycoon and founding father of the staunchly pro-democracy Apple Day by day newspaper, and Margaret Ng, 73, a revered barrister and columnist, together with 4 others, had been convicted of taking part and organizing an unauthorized march in 2019.

The prosecution of veteran pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong has been held up by their supporters as a extreme assault on the liberty of speech and different civil liberties that when had been core to town’s id. Hong Kong’s authorities have overseen an expansive crackdown on the pro-democracy motion for the reason that metropolis was engulfed by antigovernment protests in 2019. Greater than 2,400 individuals have been charged because the authorities sought to quash the motion that had posed the best problem to Beijing’s rule in many years.

Beijing has sought to depict a number of of the opposition figures as subversive components working with hostile overseas forces to undermine Chinese language sovereignty. Critics of this view say the ruling Communist Occasion is just deflecting the true democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong individuals.

Mr. Lee, Mr. Lai and Albert Ho have been denounced in Chinese language state media as being a part of a “Gang of 4” who stirred unrest in 2019, an accusation at odds with the largely leaderless motion within the streets.

The case centered on a rally on August 18, 2019 when tons of of 1000’s of individuals gathered in an antigovernment protest.

That gathering had obtained police approval. However what adopted didn’t. The defendants had been accused of main protesters out of Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island, starting a march that led towards the core enterprise district. Whereas there was no violence and minimal dysfunction, prosecutors argued that the march violated Hong Kong’s public order ordinance.

Their attorneys argued that main protesters out of the park, which had stuffed with many extra individuals than it might deal with, was vital for public security. In addition they stated that imprisoning them over a peaceable march was a heavy-handed software of the regulation.

The protests that summer time had been targeted at first on a proposal to permit extraditions to mainland China however expanded to incorporate calls for for direct elections and an investigation into police use of power.

The prosecution of town’s pro-democracy leaders over a peaceable protest has drawn a world outcry. David Perry, a outstanding British barrister who was employed to steer the prosecution, dropped the case after coming underneath sharp criticism at dwelling. Dominic Raab, the British overseas secretary, had stated Mr. Perry was “fairly mercenary” and was giving the Chinese language authorities a public relations win.

The State Division, in an annual report on Hong Kong issued Wednesday, stated that the Hong Kong authorities “didn’t respect” the precise to free meeting supplied underneath native regulation, and that by imposing a nationwide safety regulation final yr, China had “dramatically undermined rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.”

The trial took 20 days, twice so long as had been scheduled initially.

The defendants, who additionally embrace the labor organizer Lee Cheuk-yan and the previous lawmakers Cyd Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, withstand 5 years in jail. Sentences can be handed down at a later date.

One other former lawmaker, Au Nok-hin, 33, had beforehand pleaded responsible to each fees, whereas Leung Yiu-chung, 67, had pleaded responsible to a single cost of taking part within the protest.

The decision might set expectations for a number of trials on comparable fees of unlawful protests set to happen this yr.

As well as, 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists have been charged with subversion underneath the brand new safety regulation for taking part in an election main that prosecutors say was a part of plan to subvert the federal government.

Mr. Lai, the media tycoon, has been charged in a separate nationwide safety case for allegedly lobbying for American sanctions towards Hong Kong and Chinese language officers.

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