Crackdown against Pro-Democracy Protests in Hong Kong

Lee Cheuk-yan blames the police and government for not giving constitutional rights to natives of Hong Kong.

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Lee Cheuk-yan blames the police and government for not giving constitutional rights to natives of Hong Kong.

Lee Cheuk-yan and eight other high-profile figures went on trial in one of the biggest court cases linked to the protest movement. A veteran champion of democracy in Hong Kong has described its legal system as an instrument of political suppression, as protest movements halt the city for over a year.

Lee Cheuk-yan said after the day’s proceedings that “It’s the department of justice, the police department and the Hong Kong government who should be on trial because they have deprived us of our constitutional rights,” he adds “This year is the year of the ox so we should be stubborn as an ox”.

Moreover, in the early months of protests, the groups are charged with organizing and participating in an unauthorized assembly, which concluded due to Pandemic and Beijing, combined to push demonstrators off the streets. However, both charges impose penalties of five years in jail.

It is the first time on trial for Martin Lee, 82, and Ng, 73. Seven of the defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges. Other defendants include Martin Lee, considered the father of the democracy movement in Hong Kong, the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, and Margaret Ng, a highly respected former legislator.

One defendant, the former deputy convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, Au Nok-hin, pleaded guilty to both charges and was convicted, according to local media. The former legislator Leung Yiu-Chung pleaded guilty to joining the unlawful assembly and was also convicted, as proceedings began at West Kowloon magistrates court on Tuesday, The pair’s cases have been adjourned for mitigation next month.

Lee Cheuk-yan and the veteran activist Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair, shouted “object to political prosecution!” while entering their pleas of not guilty. Moreover, in their initial statement, prosecutors accused the group of defying police instructions and encouraging crowds to march across Hong Kong’s main island, causing traffic disruption.

The Apple Daily newspaper said defense teams also challenged the constitutionality of the police force’s ability to ban assemblies, especially when protests were directed at them. Lawyers for Martin Lee and another defendant, Albert Ho, told the court they would submit an expert report relating to police operation matters, RTHK reported.

On the day of hearing Tuesday, Lee Cheuk-Yan was fighting for the right to assembly. Supporters were protesting outside the court one banner read “Peaceful assembly is not a crime; shame on political prosecution.”

The charges linked to a rally on 18 August 2019, when approximately1.7 a million people or more than one in five Hong Kong citizens peacefully marched in insubordination of police orders and torrential rain. Its organizers, the Civil Human Rights Front, had been permitted to hold a rally in Victoria Park, but not for a march through the streets. The huge crowd filled the park, and spread on to the streets, taking over major roads to walk to government offices a few kilometers away, protesting recent acts of police violence. In contrast to many protests before and after that day, it remained peaceful.

However, eight months later, police arrested 15 people blamed for organizing the 18 August rally and two other protests, drawing international rebuke, including a warning from the UN. The government said in response it always respected and protected human rights and freedoms, but “these rights are not absolute”, and they must not unacceptably affect the enjoyment by others of their rights and liberties.

“I think it’s inevitable I will go to jail,” he said. “I think I will be lucky to win one, but the worst-case scenario is I will lose all four.” Lee Cheuk-yan is facing three other trials this year on separate but similar charges, for organizing unauthorized assemblies including a 2020 vigil for the Tiananmen Square massacre. Moreover, Lai will face national security charges at later date but others will not.

Moreover, the case does not test the new laws brought in by Beijing with the blessing of Hong Kong’s government to crush dissent and opposition, but it has been controversial nonetheless. Benjamin Yu is prosecuting the group after the British QC David Perry bowed to international outrage and withdrew last month.

Talking after the 15 people were arrested last year, Martin Lee, imitating on the thousands who had been imprisoned over their participation in protests, said he was “proud and relieved to be listed as a defendant, after seeing so many brilliant young people arrested”. A “golden opportunity” to round up opposition figures, and labeled the arrests as “revenge and retaliation” Lee Cheuk-yan said at the time authorities were using the pandemic as a tool he added that “If we are found to be guilty of the [participation] charges, then 1.7 million people should be guilty of participation in an unauthorized assembly,” he said. “But that’s absurd … Are you going to prosecute 1.7 million people?” he inquired.