January 24, 2022

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Hong Kong Courtroom Sentences Jimmy Lai to Jail Over Tiananmen Vigil

Hong Kong Court Sentences Jimmy Lai to Prison Over Tiananmen Vigil

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong courtroom on Monday sentenced the previous media mogul Jimmy Lai and 7 different outstanding pro-democracy activists to jail for his or her function final 12 months in attempting to commemorate Beijing’s June 4, 1989, crackdown on peaceable protesters in Tiananmen Sq..

The sentences — between 4 months and 14 months — have been the most recent instance of the wide-ranging crackdown on dissent and free speech within the metropolis, a former British colony that when had considerably stronger civil liberties than the remainder of China. Whereas this case was not prosecuted underneath a stringent national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing final 12 months, a number of of the defendants, together with Mr. Lai, additionally face separate fees underneath that legislation.

Mr. Lai and the opposite activists — together with Chow Grasp-tung, Gwyneth Ho and Lee Cheuk-Yan — gathered on June 4 final 12 months in Victoria Park earlier than an annual vigil organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Assist of Patriotic Democratic Actions of China, a pro-democracy group. The alliance had hosted these vigils, a potent image of Hong Kong’s variations from the remainder of China, within the park for 3 a long time. However the authorities banned the gathering final 12 months, citing the coronavirus pandemic, and once more this 12 months.

Mr. Lai obtained 13 months in jail from the choose, Amanda J. Woodcock. Mr. Lee, a former lawmaker and chief of the alliance, obtained the heaviest sentence, 14 months. A former chairman of the opposition Democratic Occasion, Wu Chi-wai, was sentenced to 4 months and two weeks.

Most of the eight handed jail phrases on Monday had already been sentenced in different circumstances associated to the large pro-democracy protests that roiled Hong Kong in 2019. Mr. Lai, for instance, had already obtained 20 months. And he faces additional fees underneath the safety legislation, which might carry as much as life imprisonment.

In statements learn in courtroom earlier than the sentencing, Mr. Lai and his co-defendants made clear that they felt no remorse for defying the federal government’s ban.

If commemorating the bloodbath was against the law, Mr. Lai wrote in a press release learn by his lawyer, Robert Pang, “let me undergo the punishment of this crime, so I could share the burden and glory of these younger women and men who shed their blood on June 4 to proclaim fact, justice and goodness.”

Whereas the authorities have tried to characterize the 2019 protests as extensively violent to justify their crackdown, the case made clear that even nonviolent, seemingly innocuous actions had turn into probably dangerous.

Mr. Lai and Ms. Chow, a vice chairwoman of the alliance, have been convicted by Decide Woodcock on Thursday of inciting others to participate in an unauthorized meeting. By collaborating in a information convention the place they “every lit a candle on the similar time” and “raised a hand in unison,” the judge wrote, that they had inspired others to take part within the banned vigil.

Mr. Lai didn’t take part within the vigil itself and left the park after about quarter-hour. Nonetheless, the choose wrote, “His presence at that press convention was a deliberate act to rally assist for and publicly highlight the unauthorized meeting that adopted. He needn’t use phrases of incitement to mean to incite others.”

Ms. Chow and Ms. Ho, a journalist turned politician, have been convicted of collaborating within the unauthorized meeting. Greater than 20 different defendants, together with the others sentenced on Monday, had already pleaded responsible in relation to the gathering.

Ms. Chow additionally delivered an impassioned assertion earlier than the sentencing, wherein she condemned the federal government for utilizing public well being causes to justify what she known as an explicitly political prosecution.

“Allow us to not delude ourselves that that is all about COVID-19 and that the criminalization of the vigil is just an distinctive measure at an distinctive time,” she stated, studying her personal statement aloud. “What occurred right here is as an alternative one step within the systemic erasure of historical past, each of the Tiananmen Bloodbath and Hong Kong’s personal historical past of civic resistance.”

She added: “In closing its eyes to the plain, the courtroom dangers making itself irrelevant to the illnesses of our occasions.”

Ms. Chow has additionally been charged underneath the safety legislation.

Even earlier than Monday’s sentencing, lots of the folks and organizations concerned had been focused by the federal government. The Hong Kong Alliance disbanded in September, after officers accused it of being an “enemy of the state.” Apple Day by day, the pro-democracy newspaper that Mr. Lai based, additionally shuttered in July after the police raided its newsroom and arrested high editors.

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