Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is among several of the territory’s most prominent pro-democracy figures to be handed a tough jail sentence today after being found guilty of unauthorised assembly.
Lai, who founded the island’s Apple Daily tabloid, was jailed for a total of 14 months under Beijing’s fresh crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
Eight other activists were sentenced by a Hong Kong court this afternoon for participating in two demonstrations, on 18 August and 31 August 2019.
Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan was also jailed for both demonstrations, while Martin Lee, Hong Kong’s so-called “father of democracy”, was handed a suspended sentence.
Activist Leung Kwok-hung, commonly known as “Long Hair”, received 18 months in jail — the longest sentence of the nine handed out.
Lai’s repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western democracies and international rights groups, amid wider concerns about tougher state control in the global financial hub.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab urged Hong Kong to cease the prosecution of supporters of democracy in the former British colony, calling today’s moves “unacceptable”.
“The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life — protected in both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law — and it should be upheld,” he added.
Earlier this week, Lai’s newspaper published a handwritten letter by him sent from his jail cell which read: “It is our responsibility as journalists to seek justice. As long as we are not blinded by unjust temptations, as long as we do not let evil get its way through us, we are fulfilling our responsibility.”
The media magnate faces another six charges, two of which were dealt under the country’s new National Security Law, which can carry a maximum term of life in prison.