Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai and nine other veteran democrats pleaded guilty on Monday to their roles in an unauthorised mass protest on China’s National Day in 2019.
The 73-year-old Apple Daily founder is currently serving a 14-month jail term for two other protest-related convictions and also faces two charges under the national security law. He and the others appeared before Judge Amanda Woodcock in the District Court.
Lai admitted organising the mass demonstration on October 1, 2019, when thousands of Hongkongers marched on Hong Kong Island in defiance of police objections, at the height of pro-democracy protests that year.
Lai’s nine co-defendants pleaded guilty to the same charge. They are veteran activist Lee Cheuk-yan, former Democratic Party chairmen Albert Ho and Yeung Sum, protest coalition leader Figo Chan, activists “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Avery Ng and former lawmakers Richard Tsoi, Cyd Ho and Sin Chung-kai.
Chan, Lee, Leung and Albert Ho admitted a separate charge of inciting others on September 30, 2019 to take part in an authorised assembly the next day. Ng and Tsoi also pleaded guilty to knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly – while the prosecution decided to keep this charge on file and not to proceed with it for the eight other defendants.
The hearing will resume at 2.30 pm for the court to hear the amended summary of facts for the case. The prosecution has already indicated it would ask the court to revoke bail for Chan, Albert Ho, Yeung, Ng, Sin and Tsoi.
The remaining defendants are all serving prison sentences for other offences.
The court is set to hear pleas of mitigation next Monday, while the sentencing is scheduled for Friday, May 28.
Speaking to reporters before the trial, Albert Ho said it was “very likely” that he and other democrats would end up behind bars in this case. But the lawyer and ex-legislator said the sacrifice of their freedom was to “enable all people to speak up.”
“We have no regrets for that. We urge all citizens to stand calm and continue to speak out honestly and without fear,” Ho said.
Another former Democratic Party leader Yeung described their offences as “an act of civil disobedience,” saying they protested against the law because “the law was unfair.”
“[The government] limited the freedom for peaceful demonstration. It is a very important basic right… I hope people can stand firm,” he said.