Shanghai, China, May 28 (EFE).- Several prominent pro-democracy activists of Hong Kong were sentenced on Friday to up to 18 months in prison for convening an unauthorized protest in October 2019, according to local media reports.
The harshest sentences were handed to former lawmakers, Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung (known in the city as “Long Hair”), and to Figo Chan, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, an organization that convened some of the largest demonstrations during the 2019 anti-government protests, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
All four were sentenced to 18 months for inciting participation in illegal assemblies during China’s national day celebrations on Oct. 1, 2019 and another 18 months for organizing them although the sentences will be served simultaneously, according to independent news website Hong Kong Free Press.
Another of those convicted is tycoon Jimmy Lai, owner of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper known for its critical stance toward Beijing, who received an additional sentence – he has been in prison for several months – of 14 months, of which 6 will be served simultaneously with his previous sentence thereby prolonging his stay in jail to 20 months.
Lai, 72, was jailed after being charged with colluding with foreign forces under the security law that Beijing imposed on the city in June 2020, which includes a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The media mogul was also charged with conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice for allegedly helping one of 12 Hong Kongers captured in China in 2020 to flee to Taiwan.
He was already sentenced in April to 12 and eight months in prison – which were combined into a 14-month sentence – for taking part in two protests in August 2019.
Former lawmakers, Cyd Ho and Yeung Sum, as well as former pro-democracy League of Social Democrats party chairman Avery Ng will also spend 14 months in prison.
Meanwhile, ex-lawmaker Sin Chung-kai and activist Richard Tsoi, from the organization Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, were also sentenced to 14 months in jail although in their case they will not be imprisoned because their sentences were suspended for two years.
All those convicted on Friday had pleaded guilty to organizing the protest, in which thousands of protesters participated despite the police ban.
Ng and Tsoi also admitted to taking part in the protest, while Chan, Lee, Leung, and Ho pleaded guilty to inciting participation.
At the protest, some radical protesters erected barricades and set fire to the Chinese national flag.
They also threw Molotov cocktails and vandalized subway stations, government offices and shops.
The riot police responded by firing warning shots in the air as well rubber pellets, tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons.
The judge who delivered the verdicts explained that they were “deterrent” sentences and that, although some of the defendants had called for the demonstration to be peaceful, it was “naive and unrealistic” of them to have believed that violence would not break out given the tensions prevailing in the former British colony in the second half of 2019. EFE