Media Mogul and Hong King pro-democracy advocate sentenced to jail

16 April 2021, 14:04

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai. Picture: PA

By Harriet Whitehead

A Hong Kong court has sentenced five prominent pro-democracy advocates, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to up to 18 months in prison.

They are facing prison for organising a march during the 2019 anti-government protests, the march was not authorised by the police.

Their convictions mark another blow to the city's democracy movement, which is facing severe crackdown by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities.

The Hong Kong court gave nine people jail terms, but four of them, including 82-year-old lawyer and former lawmaker Martin Lee, had their sentences suspended after their age and accomplishments were taken into consideration.

The advocates were found guilty earlier this month of organising and participating the protests, where an estimated 1.7 million people marched in opposition to a bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, left, walks out from a court after receiving a suspended sentence
Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, left, walks out from a court after receiving a suspended sentence. Picture: PA

Lai, the founder of Hong Kong's Apple Daily tabloid, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The media mogul was already held on other charges, including collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city's affairs, a new crime under a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the city in 2020.

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Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker who helped organise annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

"I'm ready to face the penalty and sentencing and I'm proud that I can walk with the people of Hong Kong for this democracy," Lee Cheuk-yan said ahead of the court session, as supporters held up signs condemning political persecution.

"We will walk together even in darkness, we will walk with hope in our hearts."

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Lawyers Albert Ho and Margaret Ng both had their 12-month jail sentences suspended for two years.

Former politician Leung Kwok-hung was sentenced to 18 months, while another former legislator, Cyd Ho, was given a jail sentence of eight months.

Two other former politicians, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, who previously pleaded guilty, were also given jail sentences.

Au received 10 months while Leung's eight-month jail term was suspended for one year.

Hong Kong residents can be held liable for any speech or action deemed secessionist, subversive, terrorist or perceived as colluding with hostile foreign political groups or individuals.

Hong Kong's last British governor, Chris Patten, said that the Chinese Communist Party's "comprehensive assault" on freedoms of Hong Kong and its rule of law remains relentless.

"This week, we have witnessed some of the most distinguished of the city's peaceful and moderate champions of liberty and democracy placed in Beijing's vengeful sights," he said in a statement.

"The CCP simply does not understand that you cannot bludgeon and incarcerate people into loving a totalitarian and corrupt regime."