Seven of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy campaigners have been convicted of unlawful assembly relating to huge demonstrations two years ago.
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai and veteran politician Martin Lee were among those found guilty of organising an unauthorised march. All seven had pleaded not guilty but now face time in prison, a small group of protesters outside the court held posters denouncing political persecution. Two other activists had earlier already pleaded guilty and face up to five years in jail.
The seven campaigners will be sentenced at a later date. Several of them are also facing other charges, including under the Beijing-imposed national security law, which was introduced in response to 2019’s mass protests and carries severe penalties, including long prison terms.
After waves of pro-democracy protests, Beijing is increasingly cracking down on the city’s rights and freedoms. China had earlier this week passed sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral rules, which will allow prospective MPs to first be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee.
The seven campaigners are accused of participating in an unauthorised assembly on 12 and 18 August 2019, when Hong Kong was embroiled in months of anti-government protests.
The defence team say that freedom of assembly is protected under Hong Kong’s constitution, and that authorities had approved a demonstration which then grew into the unauthorised march.
The prosecution argued that freedom of assembly, while granted in the constitution was not absolute in Hong Kong.