A Hong Kong court on Friday jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy activists for their roles in organizing a protest highlighting opposition to the Chinese Communist Party on the 70th anniversary of its rule.
Lai received a jail term of 14 months, while former lawmaker Albert Ho and six others received 14 to 18 months in prison. Two people received suspended sentences. The trial was related to an unauthorized assembly marking National Day on Oct. 1, 2019, when protests erupted across the Asian financial hub, with many starting out peaceful and turning violent as police cracked down.
Lai is among the besieged members of the pro-democracy movement that Hong Kong has been imprisoning or detaining while they await trial as Beijing tightens its hold over the city. He faces other criminal cases, including offenses under a national security law China imposed last year. Those charges carry a maximum term of life in prison.
Lai was already sentenced in April to 14 months in jail over unauthorized protests in August 2019. The latest sentence adds six months to his term.
The verdicts come a day after Hong Kong’s legislature approved a sweeping overhaul of the city’s elections drafted by Beijing and banned massive pro-democracy vigil on June 4.
The bill’s passage marks the culmination of Beijing’s efforts to take control of how the former British colony chooses its leaders, giving it a veto over candidates for office following historic and sometimes violent unrest in 2019.
Hong Kong authorities earlier froze some assets owned by the 73-year-old founder of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper on May 14, citing the national security law. Shares of Lai’s Next Digital Ltd. have been suspended from trading on Hong Kong’s exchange. Authorities this month sent letters threatening Lai’s bankers with as many as seven years in jail if they deal with any of his accounts in the Asian financial hub.
The move marked the first time Hong Kong authorities have used the security law to freeze the shares of a major investor in a listed company, a step that may spook investors.
Lai earlier pleaded guilty to organizing one protest. Ho — a former Democratic Party chief and candidate for Hong Kong chief executive — pleaded guilty to organizing and announcing an event, and inciting others to take part in a demonstration.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.