By Ave Maria Radio News
Ann Arbor, Michigan, 28 May 2021 / 11:00 am
A court in Hong Kong has given Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai an additional fourteen month prison sentence for participating in an unauthorized assembly on 1 October 2019. That assembly was one of the city’s many pro-democracy rallies that garnered international attention. He was sentenced along with ten other pro-democracy activist and politicians who faced similar charges on Friday.
This new sentence is in addition to Lai’s previous sentences, totaling fourteen months, for his involvement in two protests in August 2019. The judge who handed down the sentence today said that he will serve them consecutively; Lai now faces a total of twenty months in prison.
Lai has been in prison since December 2020 after being denied bail while awaiting charges under Bejing’s new national security law. He faces three charges under that law including collusion with a foreign country. The national security law was introduced in 2020 and arbitrarily criminalizes any forms of anti-government dissent. It also refers to protests and assemblies as acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers.
Lai is a devout Catholic and is the founder of Next Digital which publishes Apple Daily, the only remaining independent and pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong. Apple Daily has been very critical of Bejing and the Chinese Communist Party. Lai earned his wealth from clothing and media ventures and is a close friend of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Cardinal Archbishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong who is well liked by the pro-democracy movement.
Despite the fact that Lai has been in prison since December, the Bejing backed Hong Kong Security Secretary has continued to threaten Lai and his business dealings. UCA News reported that earlier this month, Hong Kong authorities sent letters to Lai and branches of the Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corp (HSBC) and Citibank, threatening jail time for any dealings with Lai’s accounts in Hong Kong. Security Secretary John Lee also announced that he had frozen Lai’s assets, including his bank accounts and his more than seventy-one percent stake in Next Digital, worth an estimated $45 million.
Last October, Lai joined Al Kresta on Ave Maria Radio’s Kresta in the Afternoon and said that Hong Kong was his home and no matter what happened to him he was doing it for the Hong Kong people. He explained that Hong Kong has always had a special relationship with the West, but as Bejing has tried to take control of more and more parts the city, they have also made an effort to erode that relationship.
Under Bejing’s new national security law, Lai said, “We cannot have demonstrations anymore. If we go out to demonstrate, we will be arrested.” He also said, “My faith has been very important facing this persecution.” He explained that when jailed the first time, he asked himself would I do this again? “My immediate reaction is yes… It is God’s blessing and I will be embracing it open mindedly.”
Hong Kong is a former British territory which was transferred back to China in 1997. That transfer fell under an agreement commonly known as “one country, two systems,” which sought to guarantee certain freedoms for those living in Hong Kong including democracy, a free press, and an independent judiciary and legislature. UCA News reports that since June 2020, about one-hundred people have been arrested in Hong Kong for their involvement with the pro-democracy movement. Other media reports say more than 10,000 Hong Kong residents have fled to nearby Taiwan to escape charges under the national security law.