A Hong Kong court on Thursday convicted seven leading figures of the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong, finding them guilty of participating in and staging an unauthorized anti-government protest in 2019.
Media mogul Jimmy Lai and Hong Kong lawyer Martin Lee, 82, were among five other former lawmakers sentenced – a verdict which is only the latest in China’s crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post first reported.
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Earlier this week, Beijing approved a major overhaul of the once semi-autonomous region’s electoral system to keep “unpatriotic” lawmakers out of office.
China has always maintained that Hong Kong falls under China’s “one country, two systems” rule. But as a result of severe crackdowns, especially over the past year, the National People’s Congress (NPC) has dramatically changed the way Hong Kong is able to operate.
Hong Kong – which fell under British imperial rule until 1997, when it was returned to China – was protected by the “one country, two systems” principle in order to safeguard freedom of expression, the right meeting and judicial independence of Hong Kong people.
But Beijing has revised the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong through the AFN Standing Committee, sparking a backlash from the international community.
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“The AFN’s decision will provide strong institutional guarantees for the full and faithful implementation of the” one country, two systems “policy and the principle of” patriots governing Hong Kong “, and will ensure the stability of Hong Kong in the long term. term, ”Chinese spokesman Hua Chunying said Thursday. Hua added that the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system “ensure greater democracy in a balanced manner, which serves the overall, fundamental and long-term interest of Hong Kong society.”
On this point, there is substantial disagreement.
“Shame on political prosecution! Peaceful protest is not a crime,” shouted Leung Kwok-hung, a former Hong Kong lawmaker known as “Long Hair” after the sentencing, reported the South China Morning Post. .
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Other veteran pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Cyd Ho were also found guilty.
Those convicted face up to five years in prison, but will appear in court on April 16, with pleas of mitigation in a bid to reduce their sentences.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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