Hong Kong, anti-extradition movement: nine democratic personalities on trial

They face up to five years in prison. Accused of having organized and taken part in an unauthorized demonstration. The group includes Jimmy Lai and Martin Lee. Seven pleaded not guilty. Lee Cheuk-yan, one of them: We will fight like an "ox".

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The trial opened this morning against nine democratic personalities accused of organizing and taking part in a large anti-government demonstration on August 18, 2019.

That day hundreds of thousands of protesters challenged the bans of the authorities to demand the withdrawal of the extradition law and to denounce the brutal behaviour of the police.

If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison. The group includes Jimmy Lai and Martin Lee the "father of democracy", one of the founders of the Democratic Party.

Lai is in prison and awaiting trial for threatening national security; Lee was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The others who have also appeared in court are former MPs Margaret Ng, Albert Ho, Cyd Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and "long hair" Leung Kwok-hung.

All pleaded not guilty. Their defence lawyers contested the power of law enforcement agencies to ban a public assembly under the City Public Order Decree, a claim deemed unconstitutional. They also questioned the correctness, impartiality and transparency of the appeal committee called to decide on the lawfulness of public demonstrations and processions.

The only ones pleading guilty were trade unionist Leung Yiu-chung, who said he participated in the march but was not among its organizers, and former Democratic Party Member Au Nok-hin.

As Apple Daily reports, before entering the West Kowloon courtroom, Lee Cheuk-yan said he was "heartbroken" over the collapse of the rule of law in Hong Kong: " This is the year of the Ox - declared the Democrat - and we’ll be as tough as an ox."