Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai and pro-democracy lawyer Martin Lee were two of seven Hong Kong activists convicted for organizing and participating in an illegal anti-extradition bill march in 2019 at the height of anti-government unrest.

The ruling Thursday came after a four week trial in which prosecutors allege the activists turned a police-approved rally into an illegal procession along busy streets to the city's central business district.

The accused funneled people out of Victoria Park onto the street in an attempt at crowd control, according to their defense.

"At the request of defence counsel, mitigation and sentencing has been pushed to April 16. The seven will be released on bail in the meantime under strict orders not to leave the city."

Hong Kong's West Kowloon District Court found Lai and Lee, alongside former opposition lawmakers Leung "Long Hair" Kwok-hung, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, Cyd Ho and Margaret Ng, guilty Thursday by district court judge Amanda Woodcock but they have not been sentenced.

They join two other opposition camp members, former legislators Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, who previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the historic rally which made headlines as one of the largest protests in Hong Kong's history.

More than 1.7 million people marched from Victoria Park in Causeway Bay to Central on August 18, 2019, according to estimates from organizers, though police said turnout peaked at 338,000.

After more than a year of almost weekly protests, the opposition movement went into hibernation last spring after more than 10,000 arrests and the outbreak of COVID on mainland China.

Authorities were slow to press charges, but Hong Kong activists are now reaping the consequences of these activities in court.

Last month, the government charged 47 opposition lawmakers and democracy activists with "conspiracy to commit subversion" under a mainland-backed national security law enacted in 2020, a charge that has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

"Make no mistake: Hong Kong is under one-party rule," self-exiled Hong Kong student activist Jeffrey Ngo told Business Times in an earlier interview.

Lai, Next Media founder and owner of anti-government newspaper Apple Daily, has tangled with authorities in the past and is currently in custody for other charges relating to fraud and subversive activities.

Likewise, veteran democracy advocate and lawyer Lee has been a target for CCP wrath since 1989, when he spoke out on behalf of the thousands of Chinese youth gathering in Tiananmen Square to protest government corruption.

State media called Lee a "traitor" last year when he testified before the U.S. Congress about human rights abuses in Hong Kong.