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Hong Kong activists on trial for pioneering the 'Umbrella' protests

Nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have pleaded not guilty in a trial seen as a test of judicial independence from Beijing.

They have been charged with "public nuisance" over the 2014 "Umbrella" movement that demanded Hong Kong choose its own leader.

Three of those accused founded the civil disobedience movement before student groups joined in.

At its peak, thousands of protesters paralysed parts of the city for months.

The charges carry jail terms of up to seven years.

The trial has been described as "politically motivated prosecution" amounting to "an attack on free speech and peaceful assembly" by rights group Amnesty International.

The other six accused include lawmakers and students.

Among the nine accused are sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74, who founded the "Occupy Central" movement in 2013.

It was in reaction to a decision made by China that it would allow direct elections in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by Beijing.

Many people in Hong Kong believe they should have the right to elect their own leader.

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