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Martin Lee, Albert Ho, and Margaret Ng. (l-r) Martin Lee, Albert Ho, and Margaret Ng. Credit: Courtesy/VOA via Wikimedia Commons

Several pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been handed jail terms for participating in anti-government protests in 2019, including three veteran lawyers.

Hong Kong’s most senior barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming, known as the city’s “father of democracy,” was handed a suspended 11-month sentence. Solicitor and former lawmaker Albert Ho and barrister Margaret Ng were handed one-year jail terms, suspended for two years. They were among nine activists, many former lawmakers, who received sentences on Friday of between eight and 18 months.

The three lawyers were charged with organizing and taking part in an unauthorized assembly in August 2019, attended by an estimated 300,000 people.

Lee, 82, is the founding chairman of the local Democratic Party and a former chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association. In June 2019, he led a silent march of thousands of legal professionals in protest against a proposal to extradite criminals to mainland China.

Ng, 73, is a practicing barrister and mediator. She has also campaigned for greater political rights for decades, having represented the city’s legal profession in the Hong Kong legislature between 1995-2012.

Ho, 69, founded local firm Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners in 1995, specializing in civil and commercial litigation. In January, police arrested American human rights lawyer, John Clancey, another partner at the firm, and raided the firm’s offices.

Other activists sentenced on Friday include controversial Hong Kong publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, who was sentenced to serve 14 months in prison. He is also being charged under the city’s new national security law, which carries with it the possibility of life imprisonment.

Before sentencing, the court heard mitigation pleas from some of the defendants. Ng, who discharged her legal team and addressed the court in the dock herself, said that the rule of law must not only be defended in courts and the legislature but also on the streets.

“When the people, in the last resort, had to give collective expression to their anguish and urge the government to respond… I must be prepared to stand with them, stand by them and stand up for them,” she said.

Representing Lee and Ho, senior counsel Graham Harris told the judge that his clients are two elderly and widely respected lawyers who have devoted most of their lives to public service.

Since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, the city’s legal community has played a major role in political affairs. The Hong Kong Bar Association has often criticized perceived interference by Beijing, while lawyers have often represented pro-democracy activists in court.


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