Concerns continue to deepen over a crackdown on rights and freedoms in Hong Kong as Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison today for taking part in unauthorized assemblies during mass pro-democracy protests in the former British colony.
The 73-year-old founder of Apple Daily media group, Lai was one of nine pro-democracy activists sentenced for participating in two demonstrations on Aug. 18 and Aug. 31 in 2019.
He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the first demonstration, reduced by three months in mitigation, and an eight-month sentence for the second, of which he will be required to serve two months.
But he also faces two additional charges which could prolong his time in jail. Prosecutors said Friday these involve conspiracy to collude with foreign forces and conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice, according to Reuters.
Martin Lee, 82, also a practicing Catholic and known as Hong Kong’s “father of democracy” movement, was given an 11-month suspended sentence. The other seven pro-democracy activists, including Margaret Ng, a well-known Hong Kong barrister and politician, received sentences ranging from one-year suspended sentences to 18 months in prison.
“We continue to see selective prosecution and now selective sentencing in Hong Kong,” said Mark Simon, a deputy to Lai for many years and senior executive at Next Media Group, part of Lai’s media network. “There’s no rhyme or reason to the prosecutions.”
Simon told the Register April 16 that the suspended sentences “essentially take these major public figures out of circulation, so what you’ve got are political charges, a political trial and political sentences.”
The Catholic human rights advocate Lord David Alton, who knows Lai, Lee and Ng personally, called them “remarkable and courageous people – lifelong advocates for human rights, democracy, an independent judiciary and the rule of law.
“Today’s custodial sentences make a mockery of justice and are reminiscent of medieval Star Chambers and Stalinist show trials,” he told the Register. “These are exemplary and fine men and women who have risked their own freedom to stand for the fundamental liberties of the people of Hong Kong.”
Read more at National Catholic Register