A court in Hong Kong decides that seven prominent members of the opposition are guilty of organizing and participating in an illegal meeting in 2019. They’ll be punished later this month. Lawyers assume that they will receive prison sentences of one to one and a half years.
It will be a demonstration on 18 August 2019. Hundreds of thousands of residents of the former British crown colony then demonstrated against the Chinese government and the city’s pro-Chinese administration, in particular against a law that allowed the extradition of suspects to China.
The organization received a permit from the police to meet in a park, but because the park was too small, participants also demonstrated elsewhere in the city. Peaceful demonstrations are allowed in Hong Kong, the judge said, but according to her, there are limits to that. Public order and security must not be endangered. That would have happened in this case.
Among the suspects are former lawyer Martin Lee (82), media mogul Jimmy Lai (72) and human rights lawyer Margaret Ng (73). Lee was one of the founders of the Democratic Party in the 1990s. He and the other suspects heard the judge unmoved when she read the verdict.
Outside the court, a small number of supporters demonstrated. The defendants are out on bail. On 16 April they will have the opportunity to present mitigating circumstances. Then the court decides the sentence.
The opposition movement in Hong Kong has now largely been silenced. The government in Beijing has introduced a new security law that puts political opponents at risk of being prosecuted and behind bars.
Last month Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong’s administration was further strengthened. It is now up to a committee to decide who can stand as a candidate for parliament and the college which elects the highest executive. In practice, this probably means that people who, according to China, are not “patriotic” enough can be excluded.