Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Sunday afternoon to protest the jailing of young activists last week, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Led by pro-democracy and localist groups, the protesters marched from Southorn Playground in Wan Chai to the Court of Final Appeal in Central.
Police estimated the crowd at 22,000 at its peak while the organizers did not give a number.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal sentenced three former student leaders to six to eight months in prison for their part in the 2014 democracy protests.
Earlier, 13 young activists were sentenced to jail in connection with a protest over the development of northeast New Territories.
The marchers carried placards and banners objecting to the jailing of the activists, calling it “political persecution”.
The rally ended peacefully at 7:30 p.m.
Calling the turnout the highest since the Occupy movement in 2014, Lester Shum, speaker for the demonstration and former deputy secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), said the rally showed the public chose not to compromise even though the government has been trying to repress those who challenge injustice.
It’s also a slap in the face for Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Shum said.
Shum said the government’s relentless suppression of pro-democracy activities is targeting all pan-democratic parties.
Sunday’s rally showed the different parties are united in fighting political suppression, he said.
While admitting there may be more “political prisoners” judging by the government’s hard-line stance, Shum called on the public to have faith and actively participate in political affairs.
In response, the government said in a statement that there was no political motive behind the jailing of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.
It denied allegations that the courts are under political influence. A joint statement by the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Law Society of Hong Kong also dismissed the allegations.
Meanwhile, former Bar Association chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai said in a Cable TV interview on Sunday that the jailed trio were not victims of politics but only got what they sought.
Shieh said Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong who was one of the initiators of the Occupy movement, “has a lot to answer” for their jailing.
Shieh also criticized the New York Times for implying Hong Kong courts are controlled by Beijing.
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