Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was one of three pro-democracy activists who pleaded guilty Wednesday to participating in an unauthorized rally in 2019.
The other two activists who pleaded guilty along with Lai were Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeng Sum. The trio took part in a massive anti-government protest on Aug. 31 of that year, at the height of near-daily and often violent demonstrations demanding greater democracy for the city.
Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters as he and Yeng left the courthouse that although they pleaded guilty, they had done nothing wrong, as they were affirming the people’s right to peacefully protest.
The trio faces five years in prison on the charge.
Jimmy Lai, the publisher of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, is already in jail under Hong Kong’s national security law on suspicion of foreign collusion. Lai was convicted earlier this month along with six other activists, including 82-year-old democracy icon Martin Lee, for organizing and participating in an unlawful assembly on Aug. 18, 2019.
The protests were triggered by a controversial extradition bill that evolved into a greater demand for greater freedoms for the financial hub, which had been granted an unusual amount of freedoms when Britain handed over control in 1997.
The demonstrations spurred Beijing to impose the national security law under which anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.
The new law is one part of Beijing’s sweeping crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. China’s national legislature recently approved a set of changes to Hong Kong’s electoral process to ensure only pro-Beijing loyalists can serve in the city’s legislature, and several pro-democracy lawmakers resigned after a handful of their colleagues were disqualified.