Ken Cheung / AP
Nine veteran activists and lawmakers in Hong Kong were sentenced to up to 18 months in prison for participating in anti-government protests nearly two years ago.
Media mogul Jimmy Lai was sentenced to a year in prison, while prominent attorneys Margaret Ng and Martin Lee received suspended sentences of 12 and 11 months respectively, which means that if they are not convicted of another crime in the next two years, they will not have to spend time behind Bars. Lee Chuk Yan, a former activist and lawmaker, was given the harshest sentence of 18 months.
The nine are among the most prominent personalities in Hong Kong that have so far been imprisoned, such as Beijing Several waves of arrests escalated In the wake of Mass protests Against its control of the region. They were convicted earlier this month of participating in two unauthorized peaceful demonstrations in August 2019.
These protests were part of a larger political movement that began peacefully and attracted record numbers of protesters All walks of life In Hong Kong. But demonstrations are every now and then Turned violentAfter the chief executive in Beijing and Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, refused to budge on more Long-term demands for democratic reform, Like being able to directly vote for Hong Kong’s next leader.
Now, Beijing is enacting a series of new rules in Hong Kong to consolidate its control and prevent political opposition in the future.
Since the protests ended early last year, China has paused Disqualified Four opposition MPs from the Hong Kong Legislature. Then Beijing Shocked by new rules Which – which Give her effective control About how to choose the legislature and chief executive for a region. About 50 activists pioneered a landslide victory for pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong and were planning to win a larger legislative election. He was arrested. The National Security Act, which has been out for a year, has made political opposition virtually impossible.
“The law should protect rights, not take them away,” said Margaret Ng, 73, a prominent lawyer who spoke before the verdict.
Those sentenced are not only known for their influence, but for their seniority. Eight of the nine convicts are over the age of 60, and all of them, in various ways, have shaped Hong Kong’s political and legal landscape since it left British rule in 1997.
Also among those who were in court on Friday were former MPs Au Nok Hin, Leung Kwok Hang, Leung Yoo Chung, Lee Cheok Yan, and Albert Hu. And the master is.
More than 10,000 people were arrested for their participation in the 2019 protests. Most of them have been released on bail and have not yet been tried.
Three of those sentenced on Friday – Wali and the deputy he – survived – were sentenced Considered By Chinese state media as part of the “Gang of Four”, which Beijing considers the main coordinators behind the mass demonstrations.
“What we’re seeing is that the legal system in Hong Kong has essentially become a system of control in Hong Kong,” says Mark Simon, a longtime business partner in Lay and lives in Taiwan.
Media mogul Lay will likely face his longest time in prison. He has yet to be prosecuted on six additional charges – one for alleged fraud relating to an office lease contract for his media company, Apple Media, and two counts of “colluding with foreign forces” under the Beijing National Security Act. outlet Last June. He could face life in prison for violating these laws.
Lai, a frequent visitor to Washington, DC, met several times with senior US officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Lay has been imprisoned since last December after his arrest and refused to release him on bail on charges of national security.
Simon said, “He reads a lot.” “He worries about his family’s health once in a while. But he’s incredibly bored, and he’ll probably be happy to get out of jail.”
Earlier this month, Lai released a handwritten letter from prison: “This is exactly what we need to love and cherish ourselves. The era is collapsing before us, and it is time to stand tall,” the letter said.
Hu, former lawmaker and attorney Martin Lee made short comments outside the courtroom ahead of his sentencing on Friday amid shouts from their supporters and pro-Beijing protesters. He was sentenced to one year in prison.
“The most important thing is to keep hoping, as long as there is hope, everything will work out,” he told me He said. He also told reporters outside the courtroom where he was ruled that he slept well the night before and was “at peace.”