Several figures in the pro-democracy struggle in Hong Kong appeared on Tuesday for the organization of one of the largest protests to take place in the city in 2019, a further illustration of the relentless repression underway in the Chinese region.
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Among the nine defendants are some of the most respected figures in the struggle for freedoms in the former British colony, often apostles of non-violence who have been mobilized for decades for the establishment of real suffrage. universal.
One of the most famous is the 82-year-old lawyer Martin Lee, who decades ago was selected by Beijing to draft the Basic Law, the text which serves as a mini-constitution in the semi- autonomous.
Also in the box are former opposition MP Margaret Ng, a 73-year-old lawyer, and media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is currently in pre-trial detention on separate prosecutions under the draconian law on national security that Beijing imposed at the end of June 2020.
Several are leading figures of the Civil Front for Human Rights, the coalition that organized the biggest demonstrations in 2019, when the city experienced its most serious political crisis since the handover in 1997, with actions and mobilizations almost daily.
When the defendants entered the court on Tuesday, several activists made a three-fingered salute, a gesture that has become in Asia a symbol of the fight against authoritarianism.
The group, which faces up to five years in detention, is being prosecuted for organizing an unauthorized rally on August 18, 2019, the second largest demonstration in seven months of protest.
Organizers had reported 1.7 million demonstrators, which would represent nearly a quarter of the Hong Kong population. This figure could not be verified independently.
The popularity of the movement was reflected in the ballot box by a triumph of the opposition in the local elections of November 2019.
The movement suffered a sudden halt in early 2020 under the cumulative effect of the assembly restrictions taken against the coronavirus and thousands of arrests.
With the exception of the abandonment of the controversial extradition law which had triggered the protest, the demonstrators obtained nothing.
And in 2020, the Chinese authorities initiated a strong takeover of their turbulent region, notably through the national security law imposed at the end of June.
No demonstration is now possible in the city, and the authorities have, on the pretext of the coronavirus, postponed for a year the legislative elections where the opposition had every chance of triumph.