Hong Kong court convicts seven prominent activists | overseas
Hong Kong court convicts seven prominent activists | overseas
Martin Lee who helped write Hong Kong's mini-constitution was convicted over his role in an unauthorised assembly
Credit Anthony Kwan Getty Images
02 April, 2021, 00:03
He sat on the committee that drafted Hong Kong's post-handover charter, founded the Democratic Party and served as a lawmaker until his retirement in 2008.
"Their conviction is yet another example of Beijing eroding Hong Kong's freedoms and failing to live up to its worldwide obligations", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Speaking to the press ahead of the hearing, Lee Cheuk-yan said the offending demonstration showed the world the determination of the people of Hong Kong to fight for democracy: "One day we will win". The maximum possible sentence is 5 years.
Leung Kwok-hung, a former Hong Kong lawmaker known as "Long Hair", was also among those convicted.
Seven of Hong Kong's leading veteran pro-democracy advocates were found guilty Thursday of unauthorised assembly, as Beijing's campaign to quash the city's opposition ensnared some of its most senior and well-recognised figures.
Some struck a defiant tone outside court on Thursday morning ahead of the verdict, holding banners that read "protest political suppression".
Two others, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, had previously pleaded guilty.
The defendants were granted bail on condition they hand over travel documents and not leave Hong Kong.
Since the law's promulgation, the government has sought to crush the opposition movement, barred protests and curbed political expression, and overhauled the city's electoral system to ensure only pro-China "patriots" govern Hong Kong.
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. They also said that imprisoning them over a peaceful march was a heavy-handed application of the law.
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.
Lai was arrested again in August along with several others, including both his sons, for allegedly violating Beijing's newly-imposed national security law.
Nonetheless, Martin Lee had avoided arrest until previous year.
The protests that summer were focused at first on a proposal to allow extraditions to mainland China but expanded to include demands for direct elections and an investigation into police use of force.
The case is part of a push to disband Hong Kong's democratic institutions and clamp down on the opposition's moderate wing, according to Michael Davis, a professor of law and worldwide affairs at O.P. Jindal Global University in India and a former law professor at the University of Hong Kong. The law was passed in June a year ago by pro-Beijing lawmakers in Hong Kong and is seen by many as a means of cracking down on dissent.
"The government has chosen 15 people very carefully out of the 1.7 million protesters, and all are moderate democratic activists and politicians", Davis said. These pro-democracy activists have over the years supported causes such as human rights and women's rights, and organised vigils commemorating the 1989 crackdown on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
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