Pan-dem trio plead guilty to rally rap

Top News | Wallis Wang 8 Apr 2021

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, Labour Party vice chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and former Democratic Party chairman Yeung Sum have pleaded guilty to participating in an unauthorized assembly in 2019.

Lai and Yeung, both 73, and Lee, 64, appeared before District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock yesterday and admitted knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly on August 31, 2019, at the "100,000 Christians pray for Hong Kong sinners parade" on Hong Kong Island.

Lee told Woodcock in English: "I plead guilty, but I've done no wrong. History will absolve us."

Woodcock earlier convicted Lai and eight others of organizing and participating in another unauthorized assembly on August 18, 2019.

Woodcock said she will hand down the sentences for both cases at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on April 16. Lee and Yeung have been released on bail while Lai continues to be remanded in jail custody.

During the hearing, the prosecution said around 2,000 people, including the three defendants, gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai on August 31 despite police having banned the event. The crowd then marched toward police headquarters.

Videos played in court showed Lai calling on the public to join the march during media interviews. "Every Hong Kong resident should come out and take to the street to continue the fight," Lai says in the video. "We cannot be threatened by the police."

The prosecution said the three and other protesters marched along Hennessy Road, chanting slogans and singing religious songs, despite the police warnings. The march caused traffic jams.

In mitigation, senior counsel Edwin Choy Wai-bond, who represents Lai, said the case did not involve violence. Choy said the march was peaceful and the demonstration did not seriously affect traffic.

He added that Lai is a respected businessman who has made significant contributions to the economy and contributed to the diversified development of the media industry.

Lai joined the illegal assembly to express his dissatisfaction with the government and police and should not be jailed, Choy said, adding Lai only participated in peaceful events and his presence may have even dissuaded others from committing violent crimes.

Choy suggested Woodcock should impose a suspended sentence if she considers it inappropriate to impose a fine.

Even if a jail sentence is handed down, the jail term should be deducted by 20 to 25 percent as Lai had pleaded guilty, Choy said.

Lee's lawyer, Anson Wong Yu-yat, said in mitigation that Lee has devoted his life to fighting for equal rights for workers.

Lee joined the demonstration for only less than an hour and the march was peaceful, he said, adding it would be inappropriate to jail peaceful protesters.

Yueng, who defended himself, said he defied the law to defend Hongkongers' human rights.

"I plead guilty but I don't think I did anything wrong. I will not make a mitigation plea or appeal," Yeung said.

The three face up to five years' imprisonment for taking part in an unauthorized assembly under the Public Order Ordinance.

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