AFP, published on Friday, April 16, 2021 at 9:16 p.m.
Hong Kong press mogul Jimmy Lai is due to serve a total of 14 months in prison after being sentenced on Friday for his role in organizing two major pro-democracy protests in 2019.
M. Lai was among nine opposition figures convicted of and participating in one of the main pro-democracy protests of that year, on August 18.
Four other activists received sentences ranging from eight to 18 months in prison and four suspended prison sentences. The facts were punishable by five years of detention.
According to the organizers, this demonstration had brought together 1.7 million people, or nearly one in four Hong Kongers. This figure could not be verified independently.
For this rally, the Hong Kong magnate will have to serve one year in prison.
The same court pronounced against him an additional eight-month sentence for his participation in another demonstration, on August 31, 2019.
That day, tens of thousands of people gathered to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s refusal to hold universal suffrage elections in Hong Kong.
As the sentences will be carried out partly simultaneously, Mr. Lai will only spend 14 months in detention.
This is the first time that the 73-year-old press boss, currently in pre-trial detention for violating the Beijing-imposed national security law, has been convicted for his activism.
“The decision of the Hong Kong authorities to target personalities (fighting for) democracy in order to prosecute them must end,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab reacted in a tweet Friday evening.
– “Fallacious pretexts” –
Other defendants included former opposition MP and lawyer Margaret Ng, 73, and lawyer Martin Lee, 82, who was selected by Beijing before the 1997 retrocession to draft the Basic Law. serves as a mini-Constitution for this semi-autonomous region.
Both were sentenced to suspended prison terms.
The 2019 protests regularly escalated into clashes with riot police.
In response to this move, Beijing imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong and a broad campaign to suppress dissent.
The Chinese government has also adopted a radical reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system which will totally marginalize the opposition.
For Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s regional director for Asia-Pacific, these condemnations show the government’s determination to stamp out all dissent.
“After arresting most of Hong Kong’s most prominent dissidents using the repressive national security law, authorities are now eliminating the remaining peaceful opponents under spurious pretexts linked to the 2019 protests,” she said. .
Before handing down sentences for the nine defendants, Judge Amanda Woodcock said the rally was “premeditated” to avoid a police ban.
– “Until the end” –
“The Basic Law guarantees freedom of assembly and procession, but these rights are not absolute and are subject to restrictions,” Ms. Woodcock said.
Other activists also included members of the Labor Party or the Civil Front for Human Rights (CHRF), a coalition that staged the biggest protests in 2019.
At the end of the hearing, those who went to support the nine accused stood up and greeted them as they were being taken away.
“I will support you until the end,” chanted supporters.
“There is no right as precious to Hong Kong people as freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly,” lawyer Margaret Ng said, defending herself and was greeted by a salvo. applause from the audience.
“I am ready to be sentenced and I am proud to be able to walk with the people of Hong Kong on this road of democracy (…). We will walk together through the storm, even in the dark”, has for his share said Lee Cheuk-yan before the hearing.