On 16 April 2021, 10 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to prison for up to 18 months for taking part in two “unauthorized” protests in August 2019. Three of those sentenced, owner of a fiercely pro-democracy newspaper Jimmy Lai and former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Au Nok-Hin are also facing prosecution under Hong Kong’s national security law.
The protests were part of a larger political movement that began peacefully against the so-called Extradition Bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets – defying the ban of the police and protest against China’s encroachment. On several occasions, peaceful protests turned into violent clashes, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers with bricks and petrol bombs.
The Czech Helsinki Committee is very concerned with the Hong Kong court decision. Targeting of the most prominent dissidents and lawmakers for participating in two peaceful protests signals the government’s intention to prevent society from meaningful political participation. Under international law, participating in and organizing peaceful assemblies do not require prior permission by the state. Therefore, the jailing of opposition leaders is a clear violation of human rights. Mainly, violation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly.
We call on Hong Kong authorities to stop the prosecution of opposition figures for the peaceful expression of their political views. Such actions are a direct attack on human rights and pose a serious threat to democracy. The government should not suppress nor impose restrictions on peaceful assemblies. We urge Hong Kong authorities to immediately drop charges and release all those targeted.
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Director of the Czech Helsinki Committee