Jailed Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai sentenced to 14 months for illegal assembly on October 1


Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, leaves the Court of Final Appeal in a prison van in Hong Kong, China on February 9, 2021. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu / File Photo

Jailed Hong Kong media mogul and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai was sentenced to another 14-month prison term on Friday for his role in an unauthorized assembly on October 1, 2019, at one of the pro rallies. -democracy of the city that year.

This month, Lai – who is already serving sentences totaling up to 14 months for participating in similar protests on August 18 and 31, 2019 – and nine other activists pleaded guilty in the district court for holding a non-religious assembly. authorized.

He has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security trial. He faces three charges under the new law, introduced by China in 2020 in response to the protests, including collusion with a foreign country.

Lai’s repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western governments and international rights groups, who have expressed concerns over diminished freedoms in the global financial hub, including free speech and freedom of speech. meeting.

Beijing sees him as an anti-Chinese traitor and instigator.

China says the sweeping security law, which punishes anything Beijing considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life in prison, was vital to restoring stability and prosperity.

Judge Amanda Woodcock, who sentenced Lai against an illegal gathering in April, handed down the sentence on Friday. She said part of the new sentence will be served consecutively, meaning Lai faces a total of 20 months in prison so far.

There were major clashes on October 1, China’s national day, including a live gunfire by a policeman at a protester swinging a long stick, the first use of a handgun after months of demonstrations.

“They called for a peaceful, rational and non-violent procession, but how naive and unrealistic it was that considering what was happening on a daily basis was the opposite,” said Woodcock. “It’s not with hindsight. The risk was very real every day at that time. “

The other nine defendants, including activists Figo Chan, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, known in Hong Kong as Long Hair, were sentenced to up to 18 months. Two were given suspended sentences.

“Your Honor, for over 40 years I have fought for democratic reform in China,” Lee told the court this week during one of the hearings. “This is my unrequited love, the love of my country with such a heavy heart.”

Activist Tsang Kin-shing, present at the court, condemned the “heavy” sentences imposed on Long Hair, his colleague from the League of Social Democrats.

“We are all trapped now in a prison town where free speech is not allowed,” Tsang told Reuters.

The sentence comes two weeks after authorities froze assets owned by Lai, including bank accounts and his 71.26% stake in Next Digital media publisher 0282.HK.

Hong Kong’s security chief sent letters to Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank this month threatening up to seven years in prison for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city, documents viewed. by Reuters.

The measures could jeopardize any attempt by the democracy activist to move assets offshore to his country to support Next Digital’s ailing Apple Daily tabloid, one of Lai’s financial advisers said.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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