05/18/2020, 16.52
HONG KONG
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Anti-extradition movement: five pro-democracy figures face five years in prison

More charges have been laid against the accused, who are part of a group of 15 activists arrested in April. The divide between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps is growing deeper. Anti-government LegCo members kicked out of the House Committee.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Five pro-democracy figures involved in the anti-extradition movement went on trial today at the West Kowloon Court and could get up to five years in prison as more charges were laid against them.

Albert Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Figo Chan and trade unionist Lee Cheuk-yan are part of a group of 15 people arrested last month for their role in protests that took place on 18 August, as well as 1 and 18 October last year.

They were arrested for announcing an unauthorised gathering, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 12 months.  

The 15 on trial also include the father of Hong Kong’s democracy Martin Lee, jurist Margaret Ng and magnate Jimmy Lai. All are accused of “organising an unauthorised assembly, and knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly

For months, pro-democracy groups have protested against the administration of Chief Executive Carrie Lam for kowtowing to Beijing's interference in the territory’s internal affairs.

In June 2019 protests broke out first against an extradition bill (later withdrawn); subsequently, this morphed into a broader movement in favour of democratic freedoms.

The deep divisions between pro-Beijing groups and pro-democracy forces also erupted in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).

Today, during a heated session, 15 pro-democracy members were kicked out of a House Committee meeting. The latter scrutinises bills and decides when they can be put to a vote.

Security guards dragged away pro-democracy lawmakers as they attempted to block the appointment of Starry Lee as a committee chairwoman.

The House Committee had been without a chair since last October, when Deputy Chairman Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker, took over from Lee after she had to stand aside from running the election as she was seeking another term.

Beijing accuses Kwok of undermining the committee's work and preventing the election of a new chair.

Now the House Committee can schedule the approval of a controversial bill that criminalises insults against China’s national anthem.

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