Seven of Hong Kong’s most prominent democratic activists were convicted two years ago in an illegal rally related to a large-scale demonstration.
Media mogul Jimmy Lai and veteran politician Martin Lee were one of those convicted of organizing an unauthorized procession.
All seven have pleaded not guilty, but are now facing time in prison.
A small group of protesters outside the court put up posters condemning political persecution.
The other two activists had previously been found guilty and faced up to five years in prison.
The seven activists will be sentenced to imprisonment at a later date. Some of them are also faced with other accusations, including under the Beijing-imposed National Security Act, which was introduced in response to a large-scale protest in 2019 and imposes severe penalties, including long-term imprisonment. ..
After the wave of anti-democratic movements, Beijing is increasingly cracking down on the rights and freedoms of the city.
China passed a drastic change in Hong Kong’s election rules earlier this week. This will ensure that future MPs will be scrutinized first by a Pro-Beijing Commission.
What did the seven do?
Seven activists have been accused of attending an unauthorized rally on August 12 and 18, 2019, when Hong Kong was involved in months of anti-government protests.
The defense team states that freedom of assembly is protected under the Hong Kong Constitution, and authorities have approved the demonstration, which has since evolved into an unauthorized procession.
The prosecution argued that freedom of assembly was allowed by the Constitution but not absolute in Hong Kong.
Who is Jimmy Lai?
Lai is one of the most prominent supporters of Hong Kong’s democratization movement and faces separate accusations under Beijing’s National Security Act.
Estimated to be worth more than $ 1 billion (£ 766 million), he made his first fortune in the garment industry and later entered the media to establish Next Digital.
Next Digital publishes Apple Daily, a well-read tabloid that often criticizes the leadership of Hong Kong and mainland China.
In the context of local media, which is increasingly afraid of Beijing, Mr. Lai is a deep-rooted thorn for China through both his publication and writing.
He has seen him become a hero for many residents of Hong Kong, but on the mainland he is considered a traitor who threatens China’s national security.
Interviewed with the BBC before being arrested in early December, he said he would not succumb to the threat.
“If they can provoke fear in you, it’s the cheapest and most effective way to control you, and they know it. The only way to defeat the threatening method. The way is to face fear and it doesn’t scare you. “”
What is the background to all this?
The United Kingdom returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, and the basic law was enacted under a delivery agreement based on the principle of “one country, two systems.”
This is to protect certain freedoms in Hong Kong. Freedom of assembly and speech, independent judiciary, and some democratic rights-freedom not found elsewhere in mainland China.
However, fears that this model has been eroded led to a major anti-democratic movement in 2019.
Some protests became violent and in 2020 China has introduced a controversial national security law on its territory, Withdrawal, destruction, and collusion with foreign troops are criminal if life imprisonment in prison is the greatest.
Beijing said the law targets “incitement” and provides stability. About 100 people, including Mr. Lai, have been arrested since the law was enacted in June.