Hong Kong: Media tycoon Jimmy Lai gets 13 months in jail for Tiananmen vigil

The pro-democracy activist is already serving a prison term for his role in the 2019 protests

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Monday 13 December 2021 16:04
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<p>Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong</p>

Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong

Jimmy Lai, the business tycoon and founder of defunct newspaper Apple Daily, has been sentenced to 13 months in prison by a Hong Kong court for participating in a vigil that commemorated the fatal Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The 74-year-old is already serving 20 months in jail for his role during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Seven other activists, including barrister Chow Hang Tung, 36 and activist Gwyneth Ho, 31, were sentenced to up to 14 months in prison.

Mr Lai, Ms Chow and Ms Ho were found guilty by a court last Thursday. The three, the highest profile of the activists, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Hong Kong traditionally holds a vigil on 4 June to commemorate the hundreds who were killed during Beijing’s crackdown in 1989. However, the police, citing the Covid pandemic have rejected applications for the last two vigils.

Defying a ban on assemblies, last year thousands of people attended the candlelight vigil.

Judge Amanda Woodcock said the defendants “ignored and belittled a genuine public health crisis” and “wrongly and arrogantly believed” in commemorating the day.

“If commemorate (sic) those who died because of injustice is a crime, then inflict on me that crime and let me suffer the punishment of this crime, so I may share the burden and glory of those young men and women who shed their blood on June 4th to proclaim truth, justice and goodness,” Mr Lai said in a mitigation letter ahead of sentencing.

The arrests were made under the country’s controversial national security law implemented in 2020, which critics fear is being used to throttle dissent in the light of the 2019 protests.

Under the law, secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The Communist government has arrested over 120 people, including opposition leaders and journalists since June 2020 under the draconian law.

Lee Cheuk-yan, the head of the disbanded vigil organiser Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements, in China and four others were handed sentences between 4 and 14 months.

“If there was a provocateur, it is the regime that fired at its own people. If I must go to jail to affirm my will, then so be it,” Mr Lee, who received the highest sentence of 14 months, told the court in November.

At least 16 other activists are already serving sentences between four and 10 months related to the 2020 vigil.

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