World Nine Hong Kong activists go on trial over huge democracy rally
Myanmar's democracy veterans, once again political prisoners
Carrying just a small bag, Mya Aye was escorted from his home in the dead of the night by Myanmar soldiers just as an internet blackout shrouded the country and a dawn coup ousted its civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. That protest culminated in a brutal crackdown that saw thousands gunned down by soldiers and the rise of Suu Kyi as the national avatar of resistance to military rule. © YE AUNG THU On Saturday, Myanmar was been plunged into its second internet shutdown of the week, almost completely halting the frenetic flow of news out of the country Now 54, Mya Aye has been in and out of prison for his activism ever since.
Two former Hong Kong legislators have pleaded guilty to charges of organising or participating in one of the biggest pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-controlled city in 2019.
The two were among nine, including veteran pro-democracy politician Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, whose trials got under way on Tuesday in the semi-autonomous territory.
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The nine were arrested with several others in April last year in what was seen as a move to crack down on dissent.
The two who pleaded guilty were Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, both former members of the Hong Kong legislature.
Au had been charged with organising and participating in an illegal assembly and Leung was charged with participating in an illegal assembly.
The charges stemmed from a protest on August 18, 2019, which was estimated to have drawn more than one million people, despite heavy rain.
Organisers described it as the second-largest protest of that year, with an estimated 1.7 million people marching peacefully for hours, mostly wearing black and carrying umbrellas to protect them from the rain.
The 2019 protests, fuelled by a perception Beijing was curbing the wide-ranging freedoms promised to the former British colony on its return to Chinese rule in 1997, plunged Hong Kong into its biggest political crisis since the handover.
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As the clock counts down to her finally leaving Hong Kong, Judy is riddled with self-doubt and guilt over the gut-wrenching decision to move her family to the other side of the world for a new life in Britain. Back in Hong Kong, he said, his family used to take regular holidays to Japan and Thailand. His current salary is around 30-40 percent of what he used to earn.But he says he has no regrets."I also told my friends to leave if they can," he said. "Hong Kong is no longer the place we loved.
Leung and Au will hear the verdict on March 22.
‘Rule by fear’
The other seven pleaded not guilty.
They included Lee, the 82-year-old veteran of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, and Jimmy Lai, a newspaper publisher who is being held without bail under the National Security Law that China imposed on the territory in June last year.
Veteran activists Lee Cheuk-yan, and Leung Kwok-hung, known as Long Hair, shouted “Object to political prosecution!” when they made the not-guilty plea.
The nine each face as many as five years in jail if convicted.
Ahead of the trial, supporters and several of the accused rallied outside the court. One banner read “Peaceful Assembly is Not a Crime; Shame on Political Prosecution.”
Lee Cheuk-yan said that the law had become an instrument of political suppression. “It is very sad to witness the deterioration of the rule of law in Hong Kong into a rule by fear,” he said.
Protests in Hong Kong can only proceed with the permission of authorities, although rights groups have long criticised the use of prosecutions in relation to unauthorised assembly.
Since 2019, protests have been all but outlawed with authorities either refusing permission on security grounds or later because of the pandemic.
The national security law, punishing anything Beijing deems secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, has also curbed political activity.
Since the introduction of the law, the government has disqualified opposition politicians and jailed activists, while authorities have banned slogans, songs and pro-democracy political activity in schools.
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Months-long review comes as the government replaces the broadcaster’s director six months before his term expires.The outcome of the review was announced on Friday, as the government replaced the head of RTHK months before his scheduled departure.