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Friday, 16 April 2021

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai is jailed for a year over mass Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, while four other campaigners are given sentences totalling 48 months

 Media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been handed a year in prison for his role in organising the mass anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019. 

In total, nine veteran democracy activists were sentenced today for their roles in one of the city's biggest-ever protests.  

Hong Kong's District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock gave Lai a 15-month sentence, reduced by three months in mitigation. 

Former lawmaker and barrister Martin Lee and, former lawmaker Albert Ho arrive at West Kowloon court ahead of a sentencing hearing on April 16

Former lawmaker and barrister Martin Lee and, former lawmaker Albert Ho arrive at West Kowloon court ahead of a sentencing hearing on April 16

Hong Kong's District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock gave Jimmy Lai, pictured above in June 2020, a 15-month sentence, reduced by three months in mitigation

Hong Kong's District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock gave Jimmy Lai, pictured above in June 2020, a 15-month sentence, reduced by three months in mitigation

A protester makes a gesture during a protest on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong. In total, nine veteran Hong Kong democracy activists were sentenced today for their roles in one of the city's biggest-ever protests

A protester makes a gesture during a protest on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong. In total, nine veteran Hong Kong democracy activists were sentenced today for their roles in one of the city's biggest-ever protests

It is the first time the 73-year-old - who is currently in custody after his arrest under Beijing's sweeping national security law - has received a sentence for his activism. 

Martin Lee, who helped launch the city's largest opposition Democratic Party in the 1990s and is often called the former British colony's 'father of democracy,' was given a suspended sentence of 11 months in the same case.  

Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker known for helping to organize 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.

Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, arrives at a court in Hong Kong Friday, April 16. Lee has been sentenced to 11 months in prison. He helped launch the city's largest opposition Democratic Party in the 1990s and is often called the former British colony's 'father of democracy'

Pro-democracy activist Martin Lee, arrives at a court in Hong Kong Friday, April 16. Lee has been sentenced to 11 months in prison. He helped launch the city's largest opposition Democratic Party in the 1990s and is often called the former British colony's 'father of democracy'

Diplomatic representatives from The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Canada and Australia wait to enter the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong

Diplomatic representatives from The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Canada and Australia wait to enter the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong

Jade Lai (centre, blue jacket), daughter of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, enters the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong on Friday. Her father has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in organising mass protests during anti-government demonstrations in 2019

Jade Lai (centre, blue jacket), daughter of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, enters the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong on Friday. Her father has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for his role in organising mass protests during anti-government demonstrations in 2019


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. 

Shortly before the sentencing was handed down, prosecutors pressed two more fresh charges against Lai - an additional count of conspiring to collude with foreign forces under the sweeping national security law, and conspiring to obstruct the course of justice. 

The democracy campaigners faced up to five years in prison for participating in unauthorised assemblies. 

Organisers say 1.7 million people, almost one quarter of Hong Kong's population, turned out for a huge rally that formed the backbone of demonstrations that wracked the city throughout 2019.

The nine include some of Hong Kong's most prominent activists, many of whom have spent decades advocating non-violence in their ultimately fruitless campaign for universal suffrage.

They are the latest in a string of anti-establishment figures to face the courts as China implements a sweeping crackdown on dissent. 

Supporters, family members, journalists and diplomats - representing the EU, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Australia, and Germany - were present at the hearing.

Among the defendants are Martin Lee, 82, a respected barrister known as the 'father of democracy' in Hong Kong, who was once chosen by Beijing to help write the city's mini-constitution.

They also include Margaret Ng, a 73-year-old barrister and former opposition lawmaker.

Media tycoon Lai, 73, was brought to the court from custody, where he is being held after arrest under Beijing's new national security law.

All nine were convicted of organising an unauthorised assembly on August 18, 2019, which called for democracy and greater police accountability.

Former lawmakers Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Lee Cheuk-yan, who are among the nine currently on trial, chanted slogans outside the West Kowloon court buildings on Friday.

Seven defendants who had earlier pleaded not guilty submitted their mitigation on Friday morning.

'There is no right so precious to the people of Hong Kong as the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly,' said Ng, who discharged her legal team and gave her statement in person.

She added that she's prepared to stand with and stand up for the people who 'in the last resort, had to give collective expression of their anguish and urge the government to respond'.

'I stand the law's good servant but the people's first,' said Ng, whose submission ended with a round of loud applause in courtroom.

Judge Amanda Woodcock earlier said in her verdict that the march had caused serious traffic disruption and the fact the march was peaceful was no defence.

A group of pro-democracy protesters wearing masks are pictured reacting after police fired tear gas during anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019

A group of pro-democracy protesters wearing masks are pictured reacting after police fired tear gas during anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019

Organisers said around 1.7 million people - a quarter of Hong Kong's population - took part in the August 2019 protest for which nine democracy activists will be sentenced

Organisers said around 1.7 million people - a quarter of Hong Kong's population - took part in the August 2019 protest for which nine democracy activists will be sentenced

'I'm ready for the sentencing and I'm proud that I can walk with the people of HK in this road for democracy... We'll walk together through the storm even in darkness,' former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said outside court ahead of the hearing.

Lee and Jimmy Lai had pleaded guilty to taking part in another illegal assembly on August 31, 2019.

The rallies in 2019 often descended into clashes between riot police and a knot of hardcore participants, and posed the most concerted challenge to China's rule since the former British colony's 1997 handover.

Since then, authorities have unleashed a broad crackdown with the imposition of a sweeping security law that criminalises much dissent, and passed a radical overhaul of the city's electoral system. 

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