Seven of Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy activists were found guilty Thursday of organizing and participating in an unlawful assembly during the 2019 anti-government demonstrations.
The activists include media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Day, and 82-year-old barrister Martin Lee, one of the founders of the opposition Democratic Party. Also convicted Thursday were lawyer Albert Ho, barrister Margaret Ng, labor rights activist Lee Cheuk-yan and former legislators Cyd Ho and Leung Kwok-hung.
Two other defendants had already pleaded guilty. The seven face up to five years in prison.
The seven were arrested last year for taking part in a protest on Aug. 18, 2019, that drew more than 1 million people, one of the largest that engulfed Hong Kong that year which involved violent clashes between protesters and police. The protests were triggered by a controversial extradition bill that evolved into a greater demand for greater freedoms for the financial hub, which had been granted an unusual amount of freedom when Britain handed over control in 1997.
The demonstrations spurred Beijing to impose a series of measures aimed at quashing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, including a new national security under which anyone suspected of carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison.
China’s national legislature approved a set of changes to Hong Kong’s electoral process to ensure only pro-Beijing loyalists can serve in the city’s legislature.