The Big Ideas

'Hong Kong Newspaper Tycoon Jimmy Lai Jailed Over Role in Peaceful Protests'

The Wall Street Journal | The New York Times | The Guardian

'Hong Kong Newspaper Tycoon Jimmy Lai Jailed Over Role in Peaceful Protests'
'Hong Kong Newspaper Tycoon Jimmy Lai Jailed Over Role in Peaceful Protests'

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April 16, 2021
BIG IDEA | “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these activists underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city,”

‘A Hong Kong judge sentenced newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai to 14 months in jail after he was convicted on charges related to his involvement in two large but peaceful protests in 2019.’

  • ‘Mr. Lai’s legal jeopardy may be just beginning. He faces additional charges, including under a sweeping national security law, in which political offenses for defying Beijing are vaguely defined and carry heavier sentences.’

‘Martin Lee, the 82-year-old founder of the city’s democracy movement, received a suspended sentence for his role in one of the mass protests.’

‘The prosecutions, involving a total of nine prominent pro-democracy campaigners, carry symbolic weight some 10 months into China’s sweeping crackdown on the former British colony, which has drawn stern rebukes from the U.S. and other Western governments.’

  • ‘The activists convicted were largely responsible for originating Hong Kong’s democracy movement before its 1997 handover to China, and their prosecutions are seen by many as a sign of Beijing’s intent to crush that campaign at its roots.’

‘The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years in prison the defendants had faced.’

  • ‘Still, they sent an unmistakable message that activism carries severe risks for even the most internationally prominent opposition figures.’
  • ‘Supporters of the defendants say the sentences are the latest sign of the fundamental transformation that Beijing has sought to impose on Hong Kong, once a bastion of free speech, to silence dissent.’

‘China’s ruling Communist Party has long regarded Mr. Lee and Mr. Lai as troublemakers.’

  • ‘The penalties meted out now allow Beijing to cast them as criminals, bolstering its defiance of foreign criticism and the sanctions that the United States imposed after the crackdown on Hong Kong.’

‘The prison sentences were quickly condemned.’

  • ‘ “The prosecutions, convictions and heavy custodial sentences of these dignified and experienced democrats, for their peaceful role in a protest sends a chilling message to Hong Kong citizens that free expression and peaceful protest may result in prison sentences,” said Schona Jolly QC, the chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales.’
  • ‘Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra, said the convictions were against international law. “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these activists underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city,” Mishra said.’
  • ‘Chris Patten, a former British governor of Hong Kong, said the cases saw “some of the most distinguished of the city’s peaceful and moderate champions of liberty and democracy placed in Beijing’s vengeful sights. The CCP [Chinese Communist party] simply does not understand that you cannot bludgeon and incarcerate people into loving a totalitarian and corrupt regime,” he said.’