HONG KONG — Hong Kong media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was sentenced to extra jail time Friday over his function in an anti-government protest in 2019, as authorities step up a crackdown on dissent within the metropolis.
Lai and 9 others had been charged with incitement to participate in an unauthorized meeting after they walked down a street with hundreds of residents on Oct. 1, 2019, to protest towards dwindling political freedoms in Hong Kong. All 10 pleaded responsible to organizing an unauthorized meeting.
Lai, 73, was sentenced to 14 months in jail. He’s at the moment serving a separate 14-month jail time period for different convictions earlier this yr additionally associated to unauthorized rallies in 2019, when lots of of hundreds repeatedly took to the streets within the largest problem to Beijing because the metropolis was handed from British to Chinese language management in 1997. Beijing promised that the territory may retain its freedoms not discovered on the mainland for 50 years.
With the 2 sentences mixed, Lai will serve a complete of 20 months behind bars.
The founding father of The Apple Day by day, a feisty pro-democracy tabloid, Lai can be being investigated below town’s sweeping nationwide safety legislation, imposed final yr, on suspicion of colluding with international powers to intervene in Hong Kong affairs.
Additionally receiving jail phrases of 18 months every had been former lawmakers Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, in addition to Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and ex-lawmaker who helped arrange annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong to commemorate the bloody crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Sq. in 1989.
Figo Chan, head of a political group identified for organizing protest rallies within the metropolis, additionally obtained 18 months behind bars.
Three activists – Yeung Sum, Cyd Ho and Avery Ng – obtained 14-month jail phrases. Two others, Richard Tsoi and Sin Chung-kai, had their jail phrases suspended.
A number of the activists are already serving jail sentences for earlier convictions and can serve a part of their new sentences consecutive to their present jail phrases.
Over the previous yr, Beijing has clamped down on civil liberties in response to protests. Hong Kong authorities have arrested and charged many of the metropolis’s pro-democracy advocates, together with Joshua Wong, a pupil chief throughout 2014 protests. Scores of others have fled overseas.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a press release referred to as on Hong Kong authorities to drop prices filed towards folks “merely for standing for election or for expressing dissenting views.”
Chinese language International Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday accused the U.S. of issuing a “blatant smear” on what China characterizes as laws to “enhance” Hong Kong’s electoral system.
“As a substitute of caring about Hong Kong’s democracy and Hong Kong folks’s rights, what it’s doing is to meddle in Hong Kong’s politics and China’s inside affairs,” Zhao advised reporters at a each day briefing.
On Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature, which is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers, handed a invoice lowering the variety of immediately elected seats and growing the variety of legislators appointed by a largely pro-Beijing committee. The legislation additionally ensures that solely “patriots” can run for public posts.
In the meantime, police banned the June 4 candlelight vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown for the second yr in a row citing social distancing restrictions, organizers mentioned Thursday. Hong Kong’s safety minister warned residents that collaborating in unauthorized assemblies is towards the legislation and can be handled accordingly.