Hong Kong, Aug 14 (EFE).- A Hong Kong court acquitted press magnate Jimmy Lai and six former opposition parliamentarians Monday of one of two charges brought against them for their role in an unauthorized demonstration during 2019 anti-government protests.
The appeals court found Lai, Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Albert Ho could not be held responsible for organizing the protest, which later became a march in August 2019.
Although the plaintiffs were acquitted of the charge of “organizing an unauthorized meeting” and the corresponding convictions, the charge of “knowingly participating” in it was upheld.
In April 2021, all of them had been sentenced to 18 months in prison, although some had their sentences suspended. The ruling was handed down eight months after the defendants filed an appeal.
Lai, founder of the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper, will serve a sentence of nine months instead of 12.
Other defendants, such as Lee Cheuk-yan, will have to serve six months instead of 12; Leung Kwok-hung, 12 instead of 18, and Cyd Ho, five instead of eight.
On Aug. 18, 2019, the Civil Front for Human Rights, later dissolved, requested to hold a rally in Victoria Park to protest against police violence during the protests that year.
They also presented permission to carry out a march from the aforementioned park to the Central district.
The Police approved the concentration in Victoria Park, but prohibited the march.
The organizers then asked people to join a gathering called “water flow,” consisting of going in and out of Victoria Park.
According to the lawyer who represented Lai, Audrey Eu, this “flow of water” was part of a “safe and orderly” plan.
The defendants have already completed their sentences, but Lai, Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Kwok-hung and Au remain behind bars for other offenses related to the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.
Lai has been in pretrial detention since December 2020 and was already sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for a fraud case in December.
The businessman faces a total of four counts, including two of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, one of collusion with foreign forces and one offense related to allegedly seditious publications, for which he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Although the 2019 protests were diluted with the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, China definitively deactivated them with the approval of the national security law, which ended with the most prominent activists of the pro-democracy movement exiled or imprisoned. EFE