Hong Kong, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong press magnate Jimmy Lai and six other former opposition deputies were found guilty Thursday of organizing and participating in an unauthorized anti-government demonstration.
The West Kowloon Court said Lai and Martin Lee (known as “the father of democracy in Hong Kong”), Leung Kwok-hung (“Longhair”), Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Margaret Ng organized and participated in a demonstration without the approval of police.
In addition to them, former parliamentarians Au Nok-hi and Leung Yiu-chung, part of the same case, pleaded guilty on Feb. 16.
The sentence for at least the first seven defendants will be announced Apr. 16, the court said.
All defendants except Lai and “Longhair” (currently in pretrial detention for other charges) will be released on bail on the condition they do not leave Hong Kong and submit all travel documents.
The protest took place on Aug. 18, 2019, the day a rally had been authorized in Victoria Park, which led to a march that the defense lawyers justified saying their clients intended to avoid crowds and therefore asked people to leave the compound.
This demonstration was part of anti-government protests in Hong Kong during the second half of 2019 as a result of a controversial extradition bill that, according to government critics, would have meant Hong Kong residents could be extradited to mainland China to stand trial.
Before the demonstration that led to these convictions, the Civil Human Rights Front requested permission to march 3.8 kilometers between Victoria Park and the central district of the city.
The police only authorized a concentration in the park, but organizers decided to proceed with the original plan and said well-known figures of the movement, such as those now convicted, would help in the safe evacuation to the nearby metro stations.
Organizers said the protest gathered 1.7 million people.
The guilty plea for Lai and the other six former lawmakers and activists comes the same week China approved an electoral reform that will further limit the Hong Kong opposition’s options in parliament and reinforce Beijing’s hand in the territory’s management.
Last year, in response to the protest movement that took to the streets of Hong Kong in the second half of 2019, China designed and imposed a controversial national security law that punished secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life imprisonment.
Since its entry into force on Jun. 30, the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong have been rapidly eroded. EFE-EPA