Hong Kong, anti-extradition movement: seven democracy leaders condemned
Sentencing to be set on April 16. Found guilty of organizing and taking part in an unauthorized demonstration. The group includes Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee and Margaret Ng. Lee Cheuk-yan: “One day we will win”. Cyd Ho: “Continue to fight for freedom”.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The West Kowloon District Court today ruled that seven leading democracy figures are guilty of organizing and taking part in a large anti-government demonstration on August 18, 2019.
According to organizers the march drew 1.7 million protesters to challenge the authorities' ban, demand the withdrawal of the extradition law and to denounce the brutal behavior of the police.
The defendants face up to five years in prison. Judge Amanda Woodcock will rule on the sentence on April 16, after the defense attorneys have submitted requests for the sentence to be mitigated.
Those condemned include tycoon Jimmy Lai and the "father of democracy" Martin Lee, 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: both are faithful Catholics.
The others brought before the judge are former parliamentarian and Christian lawyer Margaret Ng and other leading figures in the democratic field: Albert Ho, Cyd Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and "long hair" Leung Kwok-hung.
The seven Democrats reject the charges. Previously, trade unionist Leung Yiu-chung and former Democratic Party Member Au Nok-hin pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Judge Woodcock found the defendants guilty of having directed the demonstrators towards the Central district, away from Victoria Park, the area authorized by the police for the demonstration. The court did not believe the line of defense, according to which the seven activists were present only to disperse the crowd, and that the police are responsible for the incident, guilty of not being able to manage the demonstration.
Apart from Lai, the other six condemned were granted bail: the condition is that they hand over their passport and not leave the city.
Speaking to the press ahead of the hearing, Lee Cheuk-yan said the offending demonstration showed the world the determination of the people of Hong Kong to fight for democracy: "One day we will win". Cyd Ho instead expressed the hope that citizens have "the dream and the courage" to continue fighting for freedom.
The democratic front has suffered a severe blow since the passing of the security law in June and the new electoral law in recent days. Due to the repression carried out by local and central authorities, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that Hong Kong has now lost its autonomy from Beijing: this will force Washington to withdraw the special status on trade from the former British colony.