Hong Kong has sentences seven democracy campaigners, including former lawmakers, to up to 12 months in jail on Saturday. The sentences were handed out in light of a protest against a sweeping national security law imposed by China last year.

The seven pleaded guilty to charges. One of the charges pertained to organizing the unauthorized assembly on July 1, 2020. Thousands of protesters answered the call and took to the streets against the oppressive law. Having banned the demonstration citing coronavirus restrictions, the police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse the protesters.

Noting that the call to protest created the risk of violence. Judge Douglas Yau said, “The nature of incitement was serious.”

The jailed activists include a former leader of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) Figo Chan; 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 Ch, and Leung Kwok-hung.

Chan is facing a 12 months jail term. Meanwhile, the others were given sentences ranging between six to 10 months.

“I violated the evil public order law”

Figo Chan said, “We could only choose civil disobedience … a peaceful, rational and non-violent way to express our demand against the national security law. In order to uphold the belief of civil disobedience, I decided to plead guilty, admitting that I violated the ‘evil public order law’.”

Beijing imposed a national security law on June 30 last year in response to a widespread anti-government protest movement in 2019 that rattled the Beijing-backed administration. China underlined the law and the legislation is focused on punishing subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.

The protest to oppose the law was carried out the very next day – the first full day under the new law. For years now, some civil society groups have held demonstrations on July 1 to highlight various issues, including democratic rights.

Police data shows that at least 370 people were arrested that day for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the security law.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The promise was that its wide-ranging freedoms and a high degree of autonomy would be preserved. Nonetheless, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly denied curbing human rights and freedoms.

“Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times”

Earlier in July, Tong Ying-kit became the first person to be convicted under the national security law. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for “terrorist activities” and inciting secession. He was accused of driving his motorcycle that day into riot police while carrying a flag with the now-banned protest slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our times”.

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.

The story was filed by the News Desk.
The Desk can be reached at info@thecorrespondent.com.pk.


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