Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong democrat, arrived at the West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong on September 3, 2020.
Isaac Lawrence | AFP | Getty Images
A Hong Kong court found seven prominent Democrats guilty of unauthorized assembly, including 82-year-old barrister Martin Lee and 72-year-old media mogul Lai Changsheng. This is the latest blow to this troubled democracy movement. .
Lee helped launch the city’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, in the 1
When the judge of the District Court, Amanda Woodcock, pronounced the verdict, the silver-haired Mr. Lee and other people aged sixty or over were sitting indifferently.
The judge of the district court said in the written judgment: “After the trial, I found that the prosecution can prove without a doubt that all the defendants jointly organized an unauthorized assembly.”
They were also found guilty of intentionally participating in an unauthorized assembly.
Woodcock added that although Hong Kong’s mini-constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly, it “imposes restrictions, including restrictions on maintaining public safety and public order and protecting the rights of others.”
The sentence will begin on April 16, and some legal experts are expected to go to jail for 12 to 18 months. The maximum possible sentence is 5 years.
Other defendants include the 73-year-old famous barrister Wu Garyi; and senior Democrat Li Zhuoren, 64; He Junren, 69; Liang Guoxiong, 65; and 66-year-old Cyd Ho. The other two people, 67-year-old Au Nok-hin and Leung Yao-chung, pleaded guilty earlier.
A small group of supporters posted slogans outside the West Kowloon Court Building, including slogans labeled “Against Political Persecution.”
Liang Guoxiong shouted when he appeared in court: “Peaceful assembly is not a crime.”
The judge rejected the prosecution’s request to detain the nine people and granted them bail awaiting judgment.
During the trial, the defense lawyer argued that freedom of assembly is a constitutional right in Hong Kong, and pointed out that the police had approved the peaceful demonstration in Victoria Park in the city’s city centre. As the number soared to hundreds of thousands, the demonstration Has become an unauthorized demonstration.
The prosecution believes that freedom of assembly is not absolute in Hong Kong.
In the ongoing crackdown, critics, including Western governments, have condemned the arrest of Li and other democrats. According to the National Security Law, forty-seven other high-profile democracy activists are facing subversion charges. Most of them have been refused bail and detained.
The United States said on Wednesday that Hong Kong does not guarantee preferential treatment under the Hong Kong Policy Act, which allows Washington to maintain a special relationship with Hong Kong.
Secretary of State Anthony Brinken said in a press release that China has “seriously damaged the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong” through arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions and “pressures on judicial independence, academic and press freedom”.
Beijing’s austerity policy on the broad freedoms promised to Hong Kong after its return to China in 1997 spurred democratic protests in 2019 and plunged the semi-autonomous city into the biggest crisis since the handover.
Since then, Beijing has implemented a comprehensive national security law that punishes any crimes it considers to be secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign powers, and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Since the promulgation of the law, the government has been trying to suppress opposition movements, ban protests and curb political speech, and comprehensively reform Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure that only pro-China “patriots” can rule Hong Kong.
However, the authorities in Hong Kong and mainland China say that security laws and electoral reforms are needed to restore stability and resolve “deep-level” issues, and will safeguard human rights.