DHARAMSALA, 2 April: Seven leading pro-democracy advocates from Hong Kong, including the island’s father of democracy, Martin Lee was convicted for organizing and participating in an “unauthorised march” during anti-government protests in 2019 as the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing continues to crack down on dissent.
The octogenarian veteran of the movement along with media tycoon Jimmy Lai and five former pro-democracy lawmakers were found guilty in a ruling handed down by a district judge on Thursday, reports the AP.
The court ruling stated: six of the seven defendants convicted including Lee and Lai, carried a banner that criticized police and called for reforms as they left Victoria Park on 18 Aug. 2019, and led a procession through the centre of the city. The other defendant, Margaret Yee, joined them on the way and helped carry the banner.
The authorities held that the organisers, the Civil Human Rights Front, had been given permission to hold a rally in Victoria Park, but not a march that an estimated 1.7 million people took part in.
According to the report, they now face up to 10 years in prison, though their sentences are likely to be shorter than that.
The report described that verdict as “the latest blow to the flagging democracy movement as the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing tighten the screws in their efforts to exert greater control over the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.”
Condemning the court ruling, the US described it as another crackdown on dissent from China.
“Today’s convictions in Hong Kong of seven pro-democracy activists on politically motivated charges once again show the degree to which the PRC(People’s Republic of China) and Hong Kong authorities seek to crush all forms of peaceful dissent in the city,” the US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said.
“The US continues to condemn the PRC’s continuing assault on fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions in Hong Kong,” the statement added.
“The US continues to stand with those millions of Hong Kongers who have peacefully demonstrated to protect the autonomy and freedoms promised to them by the PRC.”