Hong Kong Court Finds Democracy Leaders Guilty Over 2019 Protest

A court in Hong Kong has found seven pro-democracy leaders guilty on April 1 for their involvement in an unauthorized protest in 2019.

Among those convicted included lawyer Martin Lee, known as the father of the democracy movement in Hong Kong, and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and is also facing a separate trial for allegedly breaching the national security law imposed last year.

The court also convicted former legislators Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho Sau-lan, veteran activists Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung, and lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan. 

Former legislators Au Nok-him and Leung Yiu-chung had previously pleaded guilty.

The case centered on a rally held on Aug. 18, 2019 where an estimated 1.7 million people marched against police orders. It was one of the biggest demonstrations held during several months of unrest in the city due to a proposed extradition legislation.

Civil Human Rights Front, who organized the protest, received police approval to hold the gathering in Victoria Park, but the march that followed did not.

The defendants were accused of leading the protesters out of the park and onto the streets, taking over major roads to walk to nearby government offices. 

Although the protest remained largely peaceful, prosecutors argued that the march breached the public order ordinance of Hong Kong.

In April 2020, police arrested 15 prominent pro-democracy activists accused of attending the 2019 protest.

“The government has chosen 15 people very carefully out of the 1.7 million protesters, and all are moderate democratic activists and politicians,” Law and International Affairs Professor Michael Davis at O.P. Jindal Global University in India said in a report by Bloomberg News.

“It’s very hard to separate this trial from the current effort to prevent participation in the political process,” Davis also said.

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