7 Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders found guilty

A Hong Kong court has found seven democracy advocates guilty of unauthorized assembly charges involving anti-government protests in August 2019.

The seven include former Legislative Council member Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Lee, the 82-year-old founder of a democratic party, is known as the "father of democracy" in Hong Kong. Lai is the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, which is known to be critical of Beijing.

The court ruled on Thursday that the seven were guilty of organizing or taking part in an unlawful assembly in August 2019 during anti-government protests.
The court granted bail to five of the defendants. The other two have been detained on separate charges.

The seven defendants and two others, Au Nok Hin and Leung Yiu Chung, are expected to be sentenced on April 16.

Au and Leung had earlier pleaded guilty. Au is a PhD student of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School of Public Policy and was arrested after he returned to Hong Kong from Japan. Leung is a former member of the Legislative Council.

Supporters gathered around the court from the early morning, shouting that demonstrations are not a crime.

Speaking ahead of the court session, one of the defendants, Lee Cheuk Yan, who heads a pro-democracy group, said it may be painful to see freedom and democracy backslide. He called on people to believe that they will eventually win.

Most of the key pro-democracy activists and politicians in Hong Kong have already been detained. The latest ruling appears certain to shrink the scope of pro-democracy activities and is expected to draw further international criticism.