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HK activists charged as politicians clash


Hong Kong’s political crisis returned to center stage on Monday as clashes erupted in the legislature and a group of prominent pro-democracy activists were charged for taking part in last year’s huge protests.

Four months of calm imposed by mass arrests and the coronavirus pandemic has unraveled in recent weeks as tensions soar in a city still marbled by divisions.

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 barrister who helped write the city’s constitution.

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

All were charged with organizing and taking part in unlawful assemblies last summer. Five face a more serious charge of incitement, which carries up to five years in jail.

All were bailed and some used the appearance to criticize the government. 

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

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

Hong Kong’s government say police are following the law, while Beijing has praised the prosecutions. 

Chamber chaos

The charges came on another day of chaos inside the city’s House Committee, a body that helps scrutinize bills, with protesting pro-democracy lawmakers dragged from the chamber by security guards and scuffles between rival camps.


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