Ten democratic politicians and activists have said they will plead guilty to charges of ‘illegal assembly’ for attending a commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Hong Kong.
The defendants, who include former lawmakers Albert Ho, Eddie Chu, and Andrew Wan, were among 26 people charged last year with attending a prohibited candlelight vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Cheung Man-kwong, Figo Chan, and Kwok Wing-kin, as well as former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung and former district councilors Chiu Yan-loy, Leung Kwok-wah, and Mak Hoi-wah, have all stated their intention to plead guilty.
Prosecutors announced in District Court on Friday that pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is already in jail on charges related to the 2019 protest movement, would plead not guilty.
Lai is also facing trial for “collusion with a foreign power” under a draconian national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Hong Kong on July 1, 2020.
Some of the defendants waved to friends and supporters in the public gallery, and onlookers noted that many of them had lost weight while incarcerated.
Twelve of the twenty defendants are now expected to enter formal pleas of guilty at their trial on September 9.
The trial is expected to last two days, with the prosecution calling 21 witnesses and all hearings held in English.
“Actually, I’m fairly calm because many of my comrades-in-arms, such as Lee Cheuk-yan and Chow Hang-tung, are already in prison or on remand,” Kwok told reporters before entering the courtroom.
“So many unimaginable things have happened in Hong Kong in the last few months, and I think the most important thing everyone can do is prepare for the persecution that is coming,” he said.
Some of the 26 defendants, including veteran protest leader and pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, entered early guilty pleas and are now serving prison sentences ranging from four to ten months.
Nathan Law, a former lawmaker, has fled the city to start a new life in the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, a national security judge sentenced two people to prison on Friday after they were arrested in connection with the publication of a series of children’s books about sheep that the authorities deemed “seditious.”
Lai Man-ling, 25, and Melody Yeung, 27, both members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, have been charged with “conspiracy to print, publish, distribute, display, or reproduce seditious publications.”
According to police and prosecutors, the books, which depict a sheep village defending itself against wolves, were written to “incite hatred against the government and judiciary.”
Lai and Yeung were imprisoned on remand after being denied bail by West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court chief magistrate Victor So.
Protesters gathered outside, wearing cartoon masks of sheep in protest of the case.
Police have warned Lai, Yeung, and others involved in the case that saw the speech therapists’ union raided, five officers arrested, and more than 500 copies of the books confiscated on July 22.