14 August 2023 – Today, Judge Andrew Macrae reported that he and other judges on the Hong Kong Court of Appeal unanimously overruled the convictions against Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Jimmy Lai, Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Albert Ho for organising an unauthorised assembly in 2019. Their convictions for participating in an unauthorised assembly were upheld.
The written judgement from the Court of Appeal determined that to be an organiser of an assembly one must be responsible for or proactively plan and arrange an action. The judgement reads, “An inference that because they were at the front of the procession, they must have organised it… is not a realistic or suitable substitute for evidence that they were involved in its organisation.”
Lai, Leung, Lee Cheuk-yan and Cyd Ho served prison sentences for this conviction. Martin Lee, Ng and Albert Ho were given suspended prison sentences. Lai, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung and Albert Ho remain in custody for other charges under the National Security Law.
The convictions involved a procession during a peaceful, government-authorised pro-democracy rally of some two million people in and around Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on 18 August 2019.
Mark Clifford, President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation hopes that the overturning of these convictions marks a return to the principles of Hong Kong’s common-law legal system. Since the introduction of a vague and sweeping National Security Law three years ago, Hong Kong authorities have distorted laws and legal principles to punish anyone who speaks out against the government. Too often, Hong Kong judges have enabled this criminalisation of dissent.
“Even after serving their sentences for a conviction that has now been overturned, 75-year-old Jimmy Lai, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Kwok-hung and Albert Ho remain behind bars for questionable charges under the National Security Law. They should be released now. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should use the overturning of this conviction to call for the immediate release of Lai, a British citizen who has been behind bars for 956 days.”