10 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures, including founder of Apple Daily Jimmy Lai, former lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, stand trial at the District Court on Monday on unauthorized assembly charges.
All 10 pleaded guilty to organizing or knowingly participating in an unauthorized assembly, in relation to a protest on Oct. 1, 2019. The other defendants include Figo Chan, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Yeung Sum, Cyd Ho, Sin Chung-kai and activist Avery Ng and Richard Tsoi of the Hong Kong Alliance.
The case was adjourned to May 24 for mitigation and district court judge Amanda Woodcock will hand down her verdict on May 28.
Dozens waited outside the court before the trial began at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Figo Chan, who wore a jacket printed with Marvel’s Avengers, invoked Doctor Strange. “Five years of imprisonment and I’ll bring back everyone,” he said.
Though he could be remanded in custody on Monday, Chan urged Hongkongers to persist against the odds and not to give up on democracy and freedom, as they are the basic rights. Whether it is the anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre on June 4, or that of other major protests, he called on people to “take every opportunity to speak out.”
Pan-democrat Albert Ho criticized the government for taking political revenge. “We do not regret our actions. The loss of our freedom resulted in more citizens speaking out orderly and peacefully,” he said.
Activist Avery Ng said their suffering is incomparable to other democrats who are held in custody under the national security law. He expressed concerns about the dwindling press freedom in Hong Kong, noting that he might find far fewer media outlets in Hong Kong after years in prison.
A 69-year-old citizen, surnamed Ho, was among dozens that queued outside the court to observe the trial. “All these fellow protesters are friends because we have fought together. We must assure them that they are not on their own,” she added.
She lambasted the increasingly heavy sentences for convictions of unauthorized assembly, which she described as “intimidation.”
Lai, a university student, said the political purge may never end. Observing the trials allows her to feel the pressure and powerlessness on her fellow protesters. “The efforts we have put in cannot be measured. I will go to whichever trial that needs people,” she added.
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