Leaders of Hong Kong umbrella movement face trial as Beijing crack down on independence sentiments

Leaders of Hong Kong umbrella movement face trial as Beijing crack down on independence sentiments

Nine Hong Kong citizens who organised the Umbrella Movement protests will be in court today, facing up to seven years

A woman sits under a yellow umbrella as pro-democracy protesters gather on a main street they occupy at Mongkok shopping district in Hong Kong

Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Nine Hong Kong citizens who organised the Umbrella Movement protests will be in court today, facing up to seven years in prison on public nuisance incitement and conspiracy charges.

The Umbrella Movement took place from September to December 2014 and on the Chinese government to grant universal suffrage and transparent electoral processes to Hong Kong. Tens of thousands participated in the peaceful protests, with some 220 people associated with the movement having already faced trial, resulting in 78 convictions.

After more pro-democracy protests were staged this July, coinciding with the 21st anniversary of Chinese rule, Beijing has sought stronger control over the administrative region. Indeed, amid fears of persecution, journalists declared freedom of speech to be dead this month, despite Hong Kong’s law protecting press freedom, which has long differentiated the region from mainland China.

Should any of the nine defendants be sentenced to prison, more protesters will likely take to the streets in Hong Kong, potentially drawing a harsher crackdown from Beijing. Even if the protesters are acquitted, though, it remains highly unlikely that China will slow the backslide of democracy in Hong Kong.

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