Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was handed an additional jail term on Friday for his involvement in huge democracy rallies, meaning he will serve a total of 14 months in prison.
Lai was initially sentenced on Friday to 12 months in jail for organizing one rally, then to another eight months for his participation in a different anti-government protest. However, he will only serve 14 months as part of the jail terms will be served concurrently.
The latest sentencing was linked to a rally on August 31, 2019 marking the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s rejection of a call for universal suffrage for Hong Kong, which sparked the 79-day “Umbrella Movement.”
The rally descended into city-wide chaos as police clashed with pro-democracy protesters.
Alongside Lai, former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan was sentenced to six months in jail, while another veteran democrat Yeung Sum received a suspended sentence.
Organizers say 1.7 million people – almost one quarter of Hong Kong’s population – turned out for the huge rally that formed the backbone of demonstrations that wracked the city throughout 2019.
Lai was among nine of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy campaigners found guilty of organising and participating in the rally.
Many of them have spent decades advocating non-violence in their ultimately fruitless campaign for universal suffrage. AFP
Amnesty International Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said Friday’s sentencings highlighted the government’s determination to eliminate all opposition.
“Having arrested the majority of Hong Kong’s most prominent dissidents using the repressive national security law, the authorities are now mopping up remaining peaceful critics under the pretext of bogus charges related to the 2019 protests,” Mishra said.
Before delivering the sentences, judge Amanda Woodcock said the rally was “premeditated” to “circumvent” a police ban.
She also said the fact the rally was peaceful was no defense.
“The Basic Law guarantees freedom of assembly and procession however these rights are not absolute and are subject to restrictions,” Woodcock said.