The protest was not authorised by the police.
Their convictions and sentencing were the latest blow to the city’s flagging democracy movement, amid an ongoing crackdown by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer and former lawmaker known for his advocacy of human rights and democracy in the city, had his sentence of 11 months in prison suspended after his age was taken into consideration.
Lai, the founder of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Prior to sentencing, he was remanded in jail on other charges, including collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city’s affairs — a new crime under a national security law imposed on the city in 2020 by the central government in Beijing.
Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker known for helping to organise annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Lawyers Albert Ho and Margaret Ng both had their 12-month jail sentences suspended. Former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung was sentenced to 18 months, while another former legislator, Cyd Ho, was given a jail sentence of eight months.
Two other former lawmakers, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, who previously pleaded guilty were also given jail sentences. Au was sentenced to 10 months in prison, while Leung’s eight-month jail term was suspended.
China’s new political view of Hong Kong
Beijing had pledged to allow the city to retain civil liberties not permitted in mainland China for 50 years after the former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, but recently has ushered in a series of measures, including a national security legislation and electoral reforms, that many fear are a step closer to making Hong Kong no different from cities on the mainland.
Under the new rules, Hong Kong residents can be held legally liable for any speech opposing China’s government and the ruling Communist Part or perceived colluding with hostile foreign political groups or individuals.
Electoral changes mean just 20 out of 90 Legislative Council members will be directly elected and Beijing will retain even tighter control over the body that picks Hong Kong’s future chief executives.