Hong Kong democrats found guilty of illegal assembly

A Hong Kong court has found seven prominent democrats guilty of unauthorized assembly.

The case is seen as the latest crackdown by China on its freest city after the imposition of a sweeping national security law last year.

The 82-year-old barrister Martin Lee and media tycoon Jimmy Lai were among the defendants.

Lee helped launch Hong Kong's largest opposition Democratic Party in the 1990s and is often referred to as the city's 'father of democracy'.

Another defendant - pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-Yan - spoke to reporters outside the court.

"In this day of reckoning, the political suppression is equal to all those who have taken part in the protest movement, including no matter where you are the peaceful or the braver you are all caught under this political suppression wave."

The court case relates to a peaceful demonstration held on August 18th in 2019, which grew into an unauthorized march as numbers swelled into the hundreds of thousands.

During the trial, defense lawyers argued that freedom of assembly is a constitutional right in Hong Kong.

But the district court judge said that right was not absolute, and argued that restrictions are imposed to preserve public safety and order.

Sentencing will come later, with some legal experts expecting jail terms of 12-18 months.

The maximum possible sentence is 5 years.