Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai gets one year in jail

Hong Kong, Apr 16 (EFE).- Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai was Friday given a year in prison for organizing an unauthorized march during a wave of anti-government protests in the city two years ago.

Judge Amanda Jane Woodcock of the West Kowloon Court also sent former legislator Leung Kwok-hung to jail for 18 months and vice chairman of the Labor Party Lee Cheuk-yan for one year.

The court also gave jail terms between eight to 12 months to six other pro-democracy activists.

But the judge decided to suspend the sentence for 24 months for some of the defendants.

Thus, Martin Lee, 82, one of the best-known lawyers in Hong Kong, and former opposition lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, were sentenced to 11 and 12 months, respectively, with a two-year suspension of their sentence.

Activists Albert Ho and Leung Yiu-Chung were given eight to 12 months in prison, but the sentences were suspended for 24 months.

On Apr 1, Lai, the 73-year-old founder of Apple Daily and an outspoken Beijing critic, and the other activists were found guilty or pleaded guilty for organizing and participating in the protest demonstration on Aug.18, 2019.

Police had only authorized a rally in downtown Victoria Park that day.

But the organizers proceeded with their original plan of holding a march that defense attorneys justified, saying their clients intended to avoid crowds.

Judge Woodcock said the convicts “made a conscious decision to break the law during that volatile time.”

The judge said the defendants with their acts had posed a “direct challenge to the police and law and order.”

“It was (a) premeditated (march) to bypass the police ban. and caused traffic disruptions. Although it was peaceful, there was a latent risk that it would end with violent episodes,” she said.

The organizers said the demonstration gathered 1.7 million people.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have pressed two additional charges against Lai.

One of the new charges was filed under the controversial national security law that stipulates penalties up to life in jail for crimes like secession or collusion with foreign forces.

The prosecution alleged that Lai conspired with his former assistant Mark Simon, national security suspect Andy Li, and others to collude with foreign powers between July 2020 and February 2021.

Lai, who has been in custody for more than four months, has not applied for bail this time after several previous attempts failed.

Lai and other activists face more sentencing for their role in another unauthorized protest on Aug.31, 2019.

The demonstrations were part of a wave of anti-government protests in Hong Kong during the second half of 2019 following a controversial extradition bill.

According to its critics, the bill would have allowed China to extradite suspects from Hong Kong for trial in the mainland.

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