Jimmy Lai: Eight to 18 Months in Prison for Nine High-Level Pro-Democracy Leaders in Hong Kong | International

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Tycoon Jimmy Lai, last February in Hong Kong.JEROME FAVRE / EFE

Nine prominent leaders of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement have been sentenced this Friday to serve sentences of between eight and eighteen months in prison for having participated in two of the largest demonstrations that paralyzed the former British colony in 2019. Among those convicted, they had been Tried and convicted on April 1, is the 73-year-old media mogul Jimmy Lai, who will have to spend 14 months in prison. Former MP Martin Lee, 82 years old and considered the "father of democracy" in the enclave, has received an 11-month sentence, although he will be allowed parole.

All nine had been found guilty of organizing and participating in a march through central Hong Kong on August 18, 2019 without the necessary permission from the police.

Lai, founder of the opposition newspaper Apple Daily, has been sentenced to 11 months in prison for his participation in that demonstration, and another eight for his role in another march held on August 31. The fulfillment of both penalties will partially overlap.

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Among the rest of the defendants, two had pleaded guilty before the trial, former MPs Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung. Au has been sentenced to 10 months in prison, and Leung, to eight, although the latter will be on probation and will only serve his sentence if he repeats for the next two years. Two other former legislators, Margaret Ng and Albert Ho, will also be on probation, under threat of serving a year in jail if the judge finds them guilty of other crimes again in the next 24 months.

In the trial of last day 1, the prosecutors accused the politicians and activists of having turned a concentration in the main park of Hong Kong, which had received the necessary authorizations, into a march that blocked the main avenues of the city center . The judges agreed with them.

The defense attorneys had alleged that their clients had simply tried to divert the crowded public to avoid excessive crowding that could have been dangerous. As then calculated by the association organizing the demonstration, the Hong Kong Civil and Human Rights Front, 1.7 million people gathered that day. The march unfolded peacefully.

The condemnation of the activists came two days after China approved an electoral reform for the former British colony that, in practice, will prevent the opposition from occupying positions of power. Last year, Beijing already imposed a draconian National Security Law that has eroded the regime of freedoms enjoyed by the enclave.

"The improper presentation of charges, the conviction and conviction of these activists underlines the intention of the Hong Kong Government to eliminate all political opposition in the city," said the Asia Pacific Director of Amnesty International, Yamini Mishra, in a release. "Having arrested most of Hong Kong's most prominent dissidents through the repressive National Security Act, the authorities are now charging at the peaceful critics that remained, under the pretext of false charges related to the 2019 protests."

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