Businessman Jimmy Lai, founder of the now-defunct opposition daily Apple Daily, and seven other Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were today sentenced to up to 14 months in prison for organizing or participating in an unauthorized vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre.
Lai, already in prison for several months for organizing or taking part in other protests, received a 13-month jail sentence for inciting others to participate in the 2020 vigil, which was vetoed by the Police on the grounds that it went against prevention measures against covid.
On the other hand, lawyer Chow Hang-tung was sentenced to 12 months on the same charge, while activist Gwyneth Ho was sentenced to six months for participating in the event knowing that it was prohibited.
In addition to Lai, Chow and Ho, five other activists were also sentenced today to between four months and 14 months in prison.
Judge Amanda Woodcock said today that she did not take into account the political position of the defendants but rather “the serious threat posed to public health” by the commemorative event.
Previously, 16 other politicians and activists were also sentenced to between six and ten months in jail for their role in last year’s vigil, which was not held in 2021.
Those already convicted include activists such as Joshua Wong, one of the most well-known faces in the protests that swept through Hong Kong in 2019 demanding more democratic mechanisms for the city and which at times turned violent.
From 1990 to 2019, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements (HKA) organized annual vigils in remembrance of the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, in which the Chinese government used the Army to ditch violently weeks of mass demonstrations in favor of political openness and against corruption.
According to the Hong Kong judge, the defendants “ignored and belittled a public health crisis” and considered “erroneously and arrogantly” that joining the vigil was more important.
In a letter read in court before the sentence was known, Lai said that he did not understand the crime of “commemorating those who died due to injustice.”
Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) said last week that condemning the activists is a sign of “the extreme efforts of the Hong Kong authorities to abuse the laws and press false charges against activists.”
“The authorities consider that the vigil was ‘illegal’ because the Police did not approve it, but a peaceful assembly does not need such authorization. People should be free to peacefully remember the Tiananmen victims. Prosecuting those who do so is a fierce attack on the right to freedom of expression and assembly, “AI said in a statement.
(with information from EFE)
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