Hong Kong activists charged over last year’s demonstrations

Hong Kong has charged a group of prominent pro-democracy activists for taking part in last year’s mass anti-government protests.

Among those in court on Monday to hear formal charges were 72-year-old media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of anti-establishment newspaper Apple Daily, and Martin Lee, an octogenarian former lawyer who helped write the city’s constitution.

The group of 15 also includes former legislators Margaret Ng, Albert Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Au Nok-hin and current legislator Leung Yiu-chung.

All of them were charged with organising and taking part in last year’s assemblies. Five face a more serious charge of incitement, which carries up to five years in jail.

All were bailed out, and some used the appearance to criticise the government.

Asked by a judge if he understood the charges, social activist Raphael Wong shouted: “I understand this is a political prosecution.”

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from the court, said the case has now been adjourned until next month.

“They have been charged under a colonial-era law known as the Public Order Ordinance. This is a very vague piece of legislation,” he said. “It means they potentially face up to five years in prison for taking part in last year’s assemblies.”

The arrests sparked criticism from the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nation’s human rights body, the latter saying non-violent activists should not be prosecuted for attending unsanctioned rallies.

Hong Kong’s government said the police were following the law while Beijing has praised the prosecutions.

The group of 15 also includes former legislators Margaret Ng, Albert Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Au Nok-hin and current legislator Leung Yiu-chung.

All of them were charged with organising and taking part in last year’s assemblies. Five face a more serious charge of incitement, which carries up to five years in jail.

All were bailed out, and some used the appearance to criticise the government.

Asked by a judge if he understood the charges, social activist Raphael Wong shouted: “I understand this is a political prosecution.”

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from the court, said the case has now been adjourned until next month.

“They have been charged under a colonial-era law known as the Public Order Ordinance. This is a very vague piece of legislation,” he said. “It means they potentially face up to five years in prison for taking part in last year’s assemblies.”

The arrests sparked criticism from the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United Nation’s human rights body, the latter saying non-violent activists should not be prosecuted for attending unsanctioned rallies.

Hong Kong’s government said the police were following the law while Beijing has praised the prosecutions.

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