Hong Kong Democracy Leaders, Including Jimmy Lai, Given Jail Terms Amid Crackdown

Nine of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy advocates were sentenced to jail terms Friday for organising a march during the 2019 anti-government protests that triggered an overwhelming crackdown from Beijing.Those sentenced include the city’s so-called “father of democracy” Martin Lee as well as pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

They were found guilty earlier this month of organising and participating in a massive protest in August 2019, where an estimated 1.7 million people marched in opposition to a bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.The protest was not authorised by the police.

Their convictions and sentencing were the latest blow to the city’s flagging democracy movement, amid an ongoing crackdown by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer and former lawmaker known for his advocacy of human rights and democracy in the city, had his sentence of 11 months in prison suspended after his age was taken into consideration.Lai, the founder of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Prior to sentencing, he was remanded in jail on other charges, including collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city’s affairs — a new crime under a national security law imposed on the city in 2020 by the central government in Beijing.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker known for helping to organise annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, was sentenced to 12 months in prison.Lawyers Albert Ho and Margaret Ng both had their 12-month jail sentences suspended.

Former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung was sentenced to 18 months, while another former legislator, Cyd Ho, was given a jail sentence of eight months.Two other former lawmakers, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, who previously pleaded guilty were also given jail sentences. Au was sentenced to 10 months in prison, while Leung’s eight-month jail term was suspended.