Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, Labour Party vice-chair Lee Cheuk-yan and former Democratic Party chair Yeung Sum appeared in court on Tuesday in connection with allegedly taking part in an unauthorised anti-extradition bill march last August 31.
The trio were arrested in late February and charged on suspicion of participating in an illegal assembly.
“We and many Hong Kong people are now subjected to not the rule of law, but rule by law,” Lee told the press outside West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts.
The veteran labour leader added that he was only one of over 8,000 people arrested in relation to the large-scale pro-democracy protests which erupted last June. Lee, 63, said he was proud to be “paying back,” and called on Hongkongers not to be fearful: “That is exactly what the government wants – to instil fear, to rule by fear. We will be ruled by our own dignity and to fight on,” he said.
Lai echoed Lee’s view: “We must fight till the end, don’t be scared… don’t fall into their trap.”
Yeung, on the other hand, urged people from all sectors and Hong Kong residents living abroad to vote in the upcoming Legislative Council Election, which is tentatively set to take place on September 6.
The 72-year-old said he hoped pan-democrats could secure more than half of the seats, so they could still act as a gatekeeper to prevent controversial legislation such as national security laws from being passed.
Yeung added the pro-democracy camp should not engage in any infighting – political novices and experienced politicians should support each other.
The prosecution had requested to postpone the hearing to May 18, as Lai, Lee and Yeung were involved in another similar case. They were among the 15 high-profile democrats who were arrested last month in connection with allegedly organising and participating in other unlawful assemblies. They were granted HK$1,000 bail and entered no plea.
Lai – the Apple Daily newspaper owner – faced a separate charge of allegedly verbally intimidating a reporter in June 2017, to which he pleaded not guilty during the hearing on Tuesday.
The 71-year-old was released on HK$4,000 bail – he must remain in Hong Kong and reside in his reported address, as well as report to the police station every week. The case will be processed from August 19 to 21.