Hong Kong: Media mogul Jimmy Lai found guilty of unauthorised assembly

On April 1, the founder of media group Next Digital, Jimmy Lai, was convicted of organising and taking part in an unauthorised assembly in 2019. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) protests against the political persecution and calls on the Hong Kong government to overturn the verdict.

Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai (C) arrives at the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on December 31, 2020. Credit: ISAAC LAWRENCE/ AFP

Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and six other pro-democracy campaigners were found guilty of organising and taking part in an unauthorised assembly on August 18, 2019. The sentencing will be handed down on April 16.

Among those convicted on Thursday include Martin Lee Chu-ming, Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lee Cheuk-yan, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, all of whom former lawmakers. 

A total of 15 people have been charged for their involvement in the August 2019 protest. Two former legislators, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, pleaded guilty in February, and six others are expected to face trial later this year.

Currently, Lai, Leung Kwok-hung, and Au have been remanded in custody as they face other charges.

A staunch support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and critic of the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities, Lai’s trials have been seen as a testimony to Hong Kong’s rapidly declining media freedom and civil liberties.

The 72-year-old has been the highest-profile person to be charged on national security grounds, being accused of colluding with foreign forces and fraud.

In August 2019, the police banned the Civil Human Rights Front’s (CHRF) application for holding a march on August 18. The authorities only allowed the group to hold an assembly in Victoria Park.

However, the assembly later turned into a large-scale but peaceful march, with an estimated 1.7 million participants, according to CHRF.

On Thursday, Judge Amanda Woodcocksaid that the seven defendants had intentionally led the crowds to leave Victoria Park and march in procession to Chater Road Central.

The march was part of a series of demonstrations and assemblies in protest against the now-withdrawn anti-extradition law and police brutality.

Beijing passed the sweeping national security legislation in June 2020 in response to the social unrest that had made global headlines. Since then, the city’s pro-democracy movement has been suffering a setback day by day.

The IFJ said: “Every citizen should be free to express their opinion and take part in peaceful protests, which is guaranteed in Hong Kong’s mini constitution, the Basic Law. The IFJ was disappointed at the ruling and called on the Hong Kong government to overturn the verdict.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram