Seven prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates convicted as China clamps down

Seven prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates convicted as China clamps down

One of the best known is 82-year-old lawyer Martin Lee, who before the retrocession in 1997 was chosen by Beijing to draft the Basic Law, which serves as a mini-constitution in the semi-autonomous region.

China had earlier this week passed sweeping changes to Hong Kong's electoral rules, which will allow prospective MPs to first be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.

Lee, Ng and Lai - the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper that is critical of Beijing - were among 15 arrested almost a year ago on the charges of organizing illegal protests.

In addition, 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists have been charged with subversion under the new security law for participating in an election primary that prosecutors say was part of plan to subvert the government.

In her verdict, district Judge AJ Woodcock indicated that she was inclined to go for a maximum jail sentence and said the fact the march was peaceful was no defence.

Leung Kwok-hung, know as "Long Hair" was a member of the city's parliament, the Legislative Council (LegCo) and even once tried to run as Chief Executive, the territory's highest office.

Since then, many members of the opposition and prominent activists have been detained in Hong Kong or taken overseas.

Two former opposition lawmakers, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, had previously pleaded guilty to charges related to the August 2019 protest.

Some struck a defiant tone outside court on Thursday morning ahead of the verdict, holding banners that read "protest political suppression".

Media mogul Jimmy Lai founder of
Media mogul Jimmy Lai founder of"Apple Daily, leaves the Court of Final Appeal by prison van in Hong Kong on Feb 9

The defendants were granted bail on condition they hand over travel documents and not leave Hong Kong.

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.

Beijing said the law would target "sedition" and bring stability.

According to the ruling, six of the seven defendants convicted on Thursday, including Lee and Lai, carried a banner that criticized police and called for reforms as they left Victoria Park on August 18, 2019, and led a procession through the centre of the city.

Ahead of the decision, supporters and some of the defendants gathered outside the court, shouting "Oppose political persecution" and reiterating a key slogan of the protests: "Five demands, not one less". Some, such as Jimmy Lai, face multiple prosecutions, including charges under the national security law.

Nonetheless, Martin Lee had avoided arrest until past year. The demonstration's organizer said 1.7 million people took place in the protest, which later saw violent clashes erupt with police.

Critics, including Western governments, have condemned the arrests of Lee and other democrats amid the ongoing crackdown.

This is supposed to protect certain freedoms for Hong Kong: freedom of assembly and speech, an independent judiciary and some democratic rights - freedoms that no other part of mainland China has. Subsequent crackdowns on pro-democracy figures and changes to Hong Kong's semi-democracy have brought further recriminations and sanctions from the global community.

In a statement on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that China had "severely undermined the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong", through arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions as well as "pressure on judicial independence and academic and press freedoms".

Emmanuel Macron expected to announce strict new lockdown measures in televised address
Macron defended his decision not to lock the country down then, saying people had benefitted from "precious weeks of liberty". A situation made worse by a Covid-19 variant, P1, that is both more contagious and potentially more lethal too.

Related Articles

  • USA  plant ruins 15 mn J&J coronavirus vaccine doses

    USA plant ruins 15 mn J&J coronavirus vaccine doses

    Moving forward, J&J is moving to implement tighter controls at its manufacturing partner, the company's statement said. Johnson & Johnson is now expanding its presence in the Emergent BioSolutions facility, according to the statement.
    NM reports 148 new infections, seven deaths

    NM reports 148 new infections, seven deaths

    There were three more deaths related to the disease in B.C. on Wednesday, bringing the province's COVID-19 death toll to 1,458. Of the active cases, 301 individuals are now hospitalized with COVID-19, 80 of whom are in intensive care.
    Joe Biden’s dog Major reportedly involved in second biting incident

    Joe Biden’s dog Major reportedly involved in second biting incident

    In November, Biden slipped while playing with Major and injured his foot , necessitating the temporary use of a walking boot. The incident took place on the White House's South Lawn Monday afternoon while the NPS employee was working the grounds.
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz facing sex trafficking probe

    Rep. Matt Gaetz facing sex trafficking probe

    Sources told the Times that the Justice Department investigation was opened during the final months of the Trump administration. The sources said investigators are looking into whether the conservative firebrand violated sex trafficking laws.
    Leading Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz investigated over sexual relationship

    Leading Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz investigated over sexual relationship

    The Republican congressman is a controversial figure. "I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not". Asked what the charges might relate to, Gaetz said: "I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I've dated".
    Covid-19 'very likely' first jumped into humans from animals

    Covid-19 'very likely' first jumped into humans from animals

    Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from an animal reservoir like bats to another host in which the virus spread before infecting humans. But there were few details to explain how such an agreement might actually compel countries to act more co-operatively.
  • NSW records no new COVID cases

    NSW records no new COVID cases

    It's understood the person came into contact with a Queensland hen's party who travelled to Byron Bay over the weekend. A Princess Alexandra nurse was among the first cases identified in Queensland's latest Covid outbreak.
    GOP Rep. Gaetz denies sexual misconduct claims

    GOP Rep. Gaetz denies sexual misconduct claims

    Elected in 2016, Gaetz rose to national prominence in recent years as one of Trump's most vocal defenders. Department of Justice has been investigating whether Rep.
    NSW records no new COVID-19 cases after Byron virus scare

    NSW records no new COVID-19 cases after Byron virus scare

    The department did not say when the new cases were detected or when they were taken to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. NSW remains at zero new cases despite local exposure to the coronavirus at the party in Byron Bay.
  • Shooting at California office building kills four, including child

    Shooting at California office building kills four, including child

    The shooting killed several people, including a child, and injured another person before police shot the suspect, police said. Signs outside indicated a handful of businesses were located there, including an insurance agent and a counselling service.
    US Dollar Softens as Biden Proposes $2-Trillion Spending Package

    US Dollar Softens as Biden Proposes $2-Trillion Spending Package

    Still, Biden said he's open to working with Republicans who have different ideas about how to improve the nation's infrastructure. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the package as nothing more than a "Trojan horse" for tax hikes.
    Federal prosecutors add sex trafficking charges against Ghislaine Maxwell

    Federal prosecutors add sex trafficking charges against Ghislaine Maxwell

    Maxwell, a USA citizen, has pleaded not guilty to charges brought a year after Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. According to Reuters and CNBC , Maxwell's new charges include sex trafficking conspiracy and sex trafficking of a minor.