Veteran HK activists convicted over 2019 pro-democracy protest

Police lead Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai away from his home

Lai, founder of Apple Daily and media group Next Digital of Hong Kong, also faces charges of fraud and colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security under the National Security Law for the HKSAR.

"We will still march on no matter what lies in the future".

China and Hong Kong's leaders say the law is needed to restore stability to the finance hub.

The defendants face up to five years in prison.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement suffered a heavy blow on Thursday when nine veteran activists were convicted over a massive rally in 2019.

The group of activists were convicted for their involvement in a protest held on August 18, 2019.

Two others had previously pleaded guilty.

The city's government separately charged some 47 prominent opposition figures with "conspiracy to commit subversion" under a national security law imposed past year that carries sentences as long as life in prison.

On Thursday morning, some of his supporters gathered near the court with banners denouncing "political repression".

"I have found after trial the prosecution able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that all of the defendants together organised what amounted to an unauthorised assembly", the district court judge noted in the full written judgement.

Organisers claimed 1.7 million people turned out - nearly one in four Hong Kong residents - though that number was hard to independently verify.

Martin Lee and Albert Ho
Hong Kong court finds veteran pro-democracy activists, most over 60, guilty of unauthorized assembly

Hong Kong human rights associations have long complained that the authorities use the term "organizing and participating in an unauthorized rally". David Perry, a prominent British barrister who was hired to lead the prosecution, dropped the case after coming under sharp criticism at home.

© Photograph: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images Seven Hong Kong democracy figures have been found guilty over a 2019 protest in Victoria Park. Judge Amanda Woodcock will rule on the sentence on April 16, after the defense attorneys have submitted requests for the sentence to be mitigated.

"It can not be right for an offender to argue that although his act was unauthorised. but because it was ultimately peaceful and there was no violence he should not be arrested, prosecuted or convicted", she wrote.

The verdict is the latest in a series of historic setbacks in recent weeks for Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp.

Since 2019, protests have been all but outlawed with authorities either refusing permission on security grounds or because of the pandemic.

Authorities have since unleashed a broad crackdown and Beijing has imposed a new security law which criminalises much dissent.

The decision comes shortly after top Chinese lawmakers approved a sweeping plan that effectively ends open elections in Hong Kong.

The number of directly elected seats for the 90-seat legislature was slashed to less than a quarter while anyone wanting to stand for public office will have to be vetted by national security police and officials for their "patriotism".

"The government has chosen 15 people very carefully out of the 1.7 million protesters, and all are moderate democratic activists and politicians", Prof Davis said.

Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, and the Basic Law was created under the handover agreement under the "one country, two systems" principle.

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