Conflicts & War

Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, activists sentenced over Tiananmen vigil

By Shirley Lau

Hong Kong, Dec 13 (EFE).- Hong Kong’s former media mogul Jimmy Lai and seven other prominent pro-democracy figures were handed down jail sentences of up to 14 months for their roles in a banned vigil last year commemorating victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

In sentencing the defendants, judge Amanda Woodcock said she had not taken into account their political stance, but the “serious” threat posed to public health by the commemorative event staged amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lai, 74, who has been behind bars for a year for various offenses related to the city’s pro-democracy movement, got a sentence of 13 months in prison for inciting others to knowingly participate in an unauthorized assembly. The sentence is to be carried out concurrently with the jail term he is presently serving. He is currently serving 20 months in prison for offenses related to Hong Kong’s 2019 protest movement.

His co-defendants Chow Hang-tung, 36, a lawyer and activist facing the same charge as Lai, and activist Gwyneth Ho, 31, accused of knowingly taking part in the unauthorized vigil, were respectively jailed for 12 and six months.

The trio were the only defendants who pleaded not guilty in the high-profile case that involved 24 defendants in total.

Five others defendants also sentenced today include trade union leader Lee Cheuk-yan, who got 14 months, and former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, who received four months and two weeks in jail.

The remaining 16 defendants, including former student activist Joshua Wong, had already been sentenced separately. Wong was jailed for 10 months.

Until 2020, the June 4 candlelit vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park had been a traditional, peaceful event held annually without interruption for three decades. It commemorated the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China that ended in a bloody crackdown by the Chinese government on June 4 that year.

Last year, the gathering was banned by Hong Kong authorities for the first time on grounds of Covid concerns. The event this year was banned for the same reason.

District Court judge Woodcock said the defendants had “ignored and belittled a genuine public health crisis”, saying they “wrongly and arrogantly” deemed their common purpose to join the vigil more important. She said social distancing measures were adopted to combat the pandemic and not used as a tool for suppression.

In his mitigation letter read out in court ahead of the sentencing, Lai noted: “If commemorating those who died because of injustice is a crime, then inflict on me that crime and let me suffer the punishment of this crime.”EFE


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