The District Court on Friday heard mitigation pleas from seven prominent pro-democracy figures convicted of organising and taking part in one of the biggest anti-government protests of 2019.
Founding chairman of the Democratic Party Martin Lee, media tycoon Jimmy Lai, and former lawmakers Margaret Ng, Cyd Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung had all denied the charges against them.
They were found guilty of leading a large crowd of people in a march from Causeway Bay to Central on August 18, 2019 to voice opposition to the later-shelved extradition bill.
The police had only given the organisers permission to hold a rally at Victoria Park.
An estimated 1.7 million people joined the protest.
Ng, a barrister, decided to address the court herself for the mitigation, after discharging her legal team.
The former legal sector lawmaker talked about her long service in Legco defending the rule of law. She told the court that the rule of law should also be defended in the streets and the community, not only in courts and the legislature.
“When the people, in the last resort, have to give collective expression in their anguish and urge the government to respond ... I must be prepared to stand with them, stand by them and stand up for them. Otherwise, all my pledges and promises would be just empty words,” she said.
Ng added that Hong Kong people are peace-loving even in “highly emotional situations,” saying the handover ceremony in 1997 was held without a hitch and the protests against security law legislation in 2003 ended without a single window being broken.
Senior Counsel Audrey Eu, representing Lai, called for a non-custodial sentence, saying the court should only fine him for a case like this.
Eu said her client was only exercising his constitutional right to take part in a peaceful protest and that “it was so calm and rational that there was no need for the police to give warnings.”
Lai didn’t take an active role in the case and wasn’t responsible for the number of people who turned up, the lawyer added, saying he was there in his personal capacity.
Philip Dykes, SC, representing Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho, highlighted their contributions to society, saying they have a combined record of serving Hong Kong for some 50 years as legislators and in other capacities.
“They have served the community and served it well,” Dykes said.
Hectar Pun, representing Leung, urged the court to take into account the fact that his client only took part in the march for a short period of time.
The hearing was continuing.
Another two defendants, former lawmakers Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, will be sentenced in the afternoon after they pleaded guilty.
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