A Hong Kong court found nine leaders of 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations guilty Tuesday on public nuisance and other charges, in a verdict that activists say likely presages more restrictions on free expression in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. Those convicted included law professor Benny Tai, retired sociology professor Chan Kin-man, and pastor Chu Yiu-ming, the AP reports. Two current lawmakers, one former lawmaker, two student leaders, and a political activist were also found guilty. The nine were leaders of the non-violent "Occupy Central" campaign to demand the right of the city's population to choose its own leader rather than merely approve a candidate picked by Beijing.
Hong Kong's biggest popular protest in recent years, also known as the umbrella movement, laid siege to government headquarters and paralyzed Hong Kong's financial district for 79 days. Thousands staked out encampments on major thoroughfares. Tai, Chan, and Chu were found guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The other six were found guilty of inciting others to cause a public nuisance, as well as inciting people to incite others to cause a public nuisance. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years. The defendants had all pleaded not guilty, calling the prosecutions politically motivated. Man-kei Tam, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, called the verdicts a "crushing blow for freedom of expression and peaceful protest in Hong Kong." (Read more Hong Kong stories.)