Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy,” Six Others, Convicted of Unlawful Meeting

On Wednesday, March 31, Hong Kong’s “father of democracy” Martin Lee, media mogul Jimmy Lai, politician “Lengthy Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, barrister Margaret Ng, and three others have been convicted of unlawful meeting for his or her management position in a peaceable 2019 march. Through the August 18 march, an estimated 1.7 million individuals defied a police ban to protest within the pouring rain, strolling from Victoria Park in the direction of Central, Hong Kong’s enterprise district. Though anticipated, the conviction of the largely aged coalition of democracy activists—Martin Lee is an octogenarian—is a darkish second for freedom of meeting in Hong Kong. The group will face sentencing later in April. At The New York Occasions, Austin Ramzy detailed how a peaceable march turned a method for the federal government to arrest outstanding voices for democracy

The case centered on a rally on Aug. 18, 2019, when lots of of 1000’s of individuals gathered in an antigovernment protest.

That gathering had obtained police approval. However what adopted didn’t. The defendants have been accused of main protesters out of Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island, starting a march that led towards the core enterprise district. Whereas there was no violence and minimal dysfunction, prosecutors argued that the march violated Hong Kong’s public order ordinance.

Their legal professionals argued that main protesters out of the park, which had crammed with many extra individuals than it may deal with, was essential for public security. Additionally they stated that imprisoning them over a peaceable march was a heavy-handed utility of the regulation. [Source]

At The South China Morning Submit, Brian Wong reported on the small print of Choose Woodcock’s ruling:

On Thursday, Choose Amanda Woodcock discovered there had been no must disperse lots of of 1000’s of contributors from Victoria Park within the type of a de facto procession, as there was no proof that exit routes have been inaccessible or problematic, or that the park was so overcrowded a stampede or threat of great accidents have been imminent.

[…] “I’m certain this public procession was not about dispersal of crowds. That was an outline used to defy the regulation and circumvent the ban. This intention was vocalised repeatedly and publicly days earlier than the general public assembly. It was solely a dispersal plan in title, and the reality is it was a deliberate unauthorised meeting,” Woodcock wrote in her 89-page judgment.

[…] Woodcock discovered the August 18 march “was not with out reprehensible conduct”, because the occasion had triggered severe site visitors disruption. She additionally rejected the argument that the seven had an inexpensive excuse for his or her acts as a result of the meeting was not violent. [Source]

Eminent authorized scholar Jerome A. Cohen wrote that Woodcock’s opinion was “reasoned” and that “she could emerge from this with added status from dealing with a controversial case in a accountable manner, despite the fact that the result is politically disappointing to many people.” The USA’ 2021 Hong Kong Coverage Act Report, launched on Wednesday, concluded that the Hong Kong authorities “usually revered judicial independence and impartiality,” regardless of elevated interference by Chinese language state media and officers. At The Wall Road Journal, John Lyons reported on democracy activists potential sentences, in addition to the choose’s resolution to grant the convicted bail:

The Thursday responsible verdicts increase the prospect of jail time for a outstanding group of democracy campaigners who’ve been combating to protect the rule of regulation within the former British colony since earlier than it was returned to China within the late Nineteen Nineties. Sentencing on the fees, which might carry as much as 5 years’ jail time, was set for later this month.

“We imagine we have been simply exercising our constitutional rights to protest come what could,” stated the labor chief Lee Cheuk-yan, one of many defendants, after the decision. “It will likely be a badge of honor for us to go to jail for combating for freedom and rights for Hong Kong individuals.”

[…] After the choose learn out the decision Thursday, a lead prosecutor known as on the choose to revoke bail till sentencing, saying the offenses have been severe and risked plunging Hong Kong into anarchy by undermining public order. Defendants, nonetheless, have been granted bail however can’t go away Hong Kong. [Source]

The listening to drew a crowd of protestors who shouted slogans from the 2019 anti-extradition motion, detailed Scott Neuman of Nationwide Public Radio:

“Forward of the choice, supporters and among the defendants gathered exterior the court docket, shouting ‘Oppose political persecution’ and reiterating a key slogan of the protests: ‘5 calls for, not one much less.’” [Source]

Lee has campaigned for democracy in Hong Kong because the Eighties. When the British transferred Hong Kong to Chinese language management in 1997, Lee stated, “The flame of democracy has been ignited and is burning within the hearts of our individuals. It won’t be extinguished.” Underneath Chinese language rule Lee was a persistent, average power for democratic reforms. Earlier than his 2020 arrest and 2021 conviction, Lee had by no means been in bother with the regulation. Upon his arrest final yr, Lee stated, “I’ve felt unhealthy to see so many excellent children being arrested and prosecuted, however I used to be not charged. Now I’ve lastly develop into a defendant. I really feel proud that I’ve an opportunity to stroll this path of democracy along with them.” In an opinion piece revealed in The Washington Submit, Lee famous that if the extradition invoice he was protesting had handed, he may need confronted path in China. At The AFP, Jerome Taylor profiled the life and activism of the venerable democracy campaigner:

Within the broad spectrum of Hong Kong’s democracy advocates, 82-year-old Martin Lee wouldn’t be thought-about a firebrand.

For many years he has campaigned in useless to see democracy in Hong Kong however at all times advocated working alongside authorities in Beijing, whilst they branded him a traitor.

He was crucial of youthful generations that favoured a extra confrontational method and remained a vocal opponent of political violence.

[…] After the handover, Britain’s Prince Charles wrote in a diary entry: “Thus we left Hong Kong to her destiny and the hope that Martin Lee, the chief of the Democrats, wouldn’t be arrested.”

[…] He remained defiant.

“Even in case you jail me, kill me, I’ll nonetheless level out it’s their fault. Democracy will come to China in the future.” [Source]

Apple Every day writer Jimmy Lai was additionally convicted of unlawful meeting on Wednesday. He doubtlessly faces life in jail for different costs introduced underneath the Nationwide Safety Legislation. The fees in opposition to Lee, Lai, and the others are a part of a coordinated marketing campaign to deliver Hong Kong underneath the Folks’s Republic of China’s management. In simply the previous few weeks, Hong Kong’s election system was radically modified with all candidates now present process vetting by nationwide safety police; 47 pro-democracy politicians have been charged with subversion for collaborating in a casual major in July 2020; and Beijing’s requires “patriotic politicians” means elected officers should take a loyalty oath as they’re sworn into workplace. At Bloomberg Information, Kari Soo Lindberg and Chloe Lo located the fees in opposition to Lee and Lai throughout the broader assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms:

“The federal government has chosen 15 individuals very rigorously out of the 1.7 million protesters, and all are average democratic activists and politicians,” Davis stated. “It’s very arduous to separate this trial from the present effort to forestall participation within the political course of.”

[…] Chinese language authorities have accused [Lee] of being a “traitor” for testifying earlier than the U.S. Congress, and in August 2019 labeled him as a part of a “New Gang of 4” in a publication underneath the Communist Social gathering’s high authorized physique. The piece additionally named Lai and Ho, a former Democratic Social gathering chief and chief government candidate, as members of the “gang” — a reference to a Communist Social gathering faction jailed for trying to grab energy after Mao Zedong’s demise in 1976.

[…] “However as soon as Hong Kong’s human rights and rule of regulation are rolled again, the deadly virus of authoritarian rule shall be right here to remain,” [Lee] stated. [Source]

Chinese language state media celebrated the convictions, labeling Lai a “modern-day Traitor” and intimating that extra punishment lay in retailer. Cui Fandi for International Occasions:

Lai additionally faces different severe costs underneath the nationwide safety regulation for Hong Kong, together with colluding with international forces to hazard nationwide safety, which was extensively seen as a high-profile case. The 73-year-old has been thought-about a “modern-day traitor” for his infamous acts and deeds in instigating one of the violent and chaotic riots within the metropolis in 2019. He was repeatedly denied bail over the previous few months as a threat of constant to commit acts that will endanger nationwide safety.

[…] This ruling is symbolic as we will see from it that the Hong Kong courts have made honest judgments primarily based on details and legal guidelines, and have shaped a constructive and benign interplay with social growth, slightly than turning into a software of sure political forces to sway over, Li Xiaobing, an professional on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan research at Nankai College in Tianjin, advised the International Occasions on Thursday.

[…] “Right this moment’s ruling can even function background info reference for different costs in opposition to Lai sooner or later, in order that the choose can perceive his character and make a good resolution and sentence that may have a deterrence impact on these anti-government rioters,” Wong famous. [Source]

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