Hong Kong court docket finds 7 democrats responsible of illegal meeting for 2019 protests – Nationwide

A Hong Kong court docket discovered seven distinguished democrats responsible of unauthorized meeting fees, together with 82-year-old barrister Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 72, the most recent blow to the town’s beleaguered democracy motion.

Lee, who helped launch the town’s largest opposition Democratic Social gathering within the Nineteen Nineties and is commonly referred to as the previous British colony’s “father of democracy,” was accused of collaborating in an unauthorized meeting on Aug. 18, 2019.

The silver-haired Lee and the others, all of their 60s or older, sat impassively as district court docket choose Amanda Woodcock handed down her choice.

“I’ve discovered after trial the prosecution capable of show past affordable doubt that all the defendants collectively organized what amounted to an unauthorized meeting,” the district court docket choose mentioned within the full written judgment.

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They have been additionally discovered responsible of knowingly collaborating in an unauthorized meeting.

Though Hong Kong’s mini-constitution ensures the suitable to peaceable meeting, Woodcock added, “restrictions are imposed, together with these for preserving public security and public order, and defending the rights of others.”

Sentencing will come on April 16, with some authorized consultants anticipating jail phrases of 12-18 months. The utmost doable sentence is 5 years.

The opposite defendants included distinguished barrister Margaret Ng, 73; and veteran democrats Lee Cheuk-yan, 64; Albert Ho, 69; Leung Kwok-hung, 65; and Cyd Ho, 66. Two others, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, 67, had earlier pleaded responsible.

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A small group of supporters displayed banners outdoors the West Kowloon court docket constructing, together with one which learn “Oppose Political Persecution.”

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“Peaceable meeting shouldn’t be against the law,” shouted Leung Kwok-hung as he entered the court docket.

The choose rejected a request by the prosecution to maintain the 9 in custody, and granted them bail pending sentencing.

In the course of the trial, protection legal professionals argued that freedom of meeting is a constitutional proper in Hong Kong, and famous that police had authorized the peaceable demonstration within the metropolis’s downtown Victoria Park, which grew into an unauthorized march as numbers swelled into the lots of of hundreds.

The prosecution argued that the liberty of meeting isn’t absolute in Hong Kong.

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Critics, together with Western governments, have condemned the arrests of Lee and different democrats amid the continuing crackdown. 47 different high-profile democratic campaigners are going through subversion fees underneath the nationwide safety legislation, and have principally been denied bail and are being held in detention.

The U.S. mentioned on Wednesday that Hong Kong doesn’t warrant preferential remedy underneath the Hong Kong Coverage Act, a legislation that had allowed Washington to keep up a particular relationship with the town.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned in a information launch that China had “severely undermined the rights and freedoms of individuals in Hong Kong,” by way of arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions in addition to “strain on judicial independence and tutorial and press freedoms.”

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The 2019 pro-democracy protests have been spurred by Beijing’s tightening squeeze on wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese language rule in 1997, and plunged the semi-autonomous metropolis into its greatest disaster for the reason that handover.

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Beijing has since imposed a sweeping nationwide safety legislation, punishing something it deems as secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with overseas forces with as much as life in jail.

Because the legislation’s promulgation, the federal government has sought to crush the opposition motion, barred protests and curbed political expression, and overhauled the town’s electoral system to make sure solely pro-China “patriots” govern Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and Chinese language authorities, nevertheless, say the safety legislation and electoral reforms are wanted to revive stability and to resolve “deep-seated” issues, and that human rights can be safeguarded.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and James Pomfret; Enhancing by Gerry Doyle)

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