A Hong Kong court has jailed seven pro-democracy activists for up to 12 months on Oct. 16 over their involvement in an anti-government protest last year.
The protest, although banned by the police citing CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions, took place on July 1, 2020, hours after a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing came to effect. That day, thousands of protesters took to the streets, despite police firing pepper spray, tear gas, and water cannons.
The national security law that the seven opposed is now being used against them.
The activists included Figo Chan, a former convenor of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF); Tsang Kin-shing and Tang Sai-lai of the League of Social Democrats; former district councillor Andy Chui; and former legislators Wu Chi-wai, Eddie Chu and Leung Kwok-hung.
Chan was jailed for one year, while the others were given sentences ranging from 6 to 10 months.
The pro-democracy protest drew a crowd of about 2 million people in 2019 who voiced their opposition to a later-scrapped extradition bill.
“We could only choose civil disobedience … a peaceful, rational, and non-violent way to express our demand against the national security law,” Chan said in mitigation.
“In order to uphold the belief of civil disobedience, I decided to plead guilty, admitting that I violated the ‘evil public order law,’” Chan said.
Chan and another two were already behind bars for previous charges.
Protests that roiled the city started in June 2019 when the Hong Kong government sought to introduce a highly controversial plan that would allow extraditions to mainland China. The bill—deemed a further erosion of the city’s judicial independence—was officially withdrawn months later.
Yet the decision failed to halt widespread criticism among civil society, as protesters also wanted more fair elections and an inquiry into police brutality.
In response, Beijing then passed a national security law on June 30 last year, which punishes what China deems as subversion, secessionism, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
On July 1, large crowds swarmed the area of Causeway Bay where the march was due to start. Yet at least 370 people were arrested that day for illegal assembly and other offenses, with 10 involving violations of the security law, according to police.
The day also marked the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China.
According to the Security Bureau, more than 150 people have been arrested under the national security law. Among them, 100 people have been formally charged.
Tong Ying-kit, the first person convicted under the national security law, drove his motorcycle that day into police while carrying a flag with the now-banned protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times.” Tong was sentenced in July to nine years in prison.
The Saturday sentence also marks the latest blow to the opposition movement. Hong Kong’s CHRF disbanded in August citing political pressure after operating for almost two decades.
On Oct. 15, one of the city’s few independent English-language bookshops also closed its doors, after the owner decided to leave the city with his family.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times