Three Hong Kong democracy advocates including Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai pleaded guilty in court on Wednesday to taking part in an unauthorized assembly during citywide protests in 2019.
The District Court heard guilty pleas from Lai; former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China; and former Democratic Party chair Yeung Sum over the illegal rally on Aug. 31, 2019.
The case was one of four related to anti-extradition bill marches in Hong Kong that the police did not approve.
Lai, who had been remanded in custody over fraud and foreign collusion charges for more than three months, was greeted by his family and members of the public as he entered the courtroom. They waved and said “Jimmy, good morning” and “Mr. Lai, good morning.”
All three defendants were charged with knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly. They responded to the court proceedings in English in front of Judge Amanda Woodcock.
After hearing the charge, Lee said: “I plead guilty, but I did nothing wrong and history will judge us not guilty.”
Yeung also told the court that he had done nothing wrong despite his guilty plea.
He had defied the law by means of peaceful civil disobedience as he was worried about the political situation in the city, the court heard. He insisted on his right of protest and of assembly, he said, and was willing to take up the legal responsibility.
Yeung concluded his presentation in court with a Greek myth about Sisyphus, adding that he would always stand firm without giving up.
The judge adjourned sentencing to April 16. She released Lee and Yeung on bail while continuing to remand Lai in custody.
Earlier, Woodcock also presided over the case of a peaceful Aug. 18, 2019, march in which Lai and Lee were also suspects. The judge on April 1 dismissed the defense challenge that unauthorized assembly was unconstitutional at the statutory and enforcement levels. She convicted Lai, Lee and five more prominent democratic figures, including barristers and former lawmakers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng.
The trio of defendants in the current case have two more court cases of unauthorized assembly to contend with. They are being prosecuted over a National Day protest on Oct. 1, 2019, for which the trial will start in May; and an illegal June 4, 2020, vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, which is to be mentioned in court again on June 11.
In addition, Yeung will face trial in August over an unauthorized assembly held in Kowloon on Oct. 20, 2019.
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