Hong Kong: Media tycoon Jimmy Lai convicted over Tiananmen Massacre vigil

Founder of Next Digital Jimmy Lai has been sentenced 13 months in prison for inciting others to take part in the Tiananmen Massacre vigil on June 4, 2020. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) strongly protests against the sentencing of Lai and calls on the Hong Kong authorities to drop the charges and immediately release him.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai (R) is being escorted into a Hong Kong Correctional Services van outside the Court of Final Appeal on February 1, 2021. Credit: STR/ AFP

On December 9, Jimmy Lai Chee Ying and two other democratic campaigners, Chow Hang-tung and Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, were found guilty of charges relating to their involvement in the Tiananmen Massacre vigil in 2020, which was banned in Hong Kong by the police for the first time in three decades, citing Covid-19 concerns.  

The trio pleaded not guilty to the charges while 17 others from the consolidated case had previously pleaded guilty before trial, according to the verdict document.  

In particular, Lai, who is currently being jailed, was convicted of “incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly” and handed down 13 months of jail time on December 13, but he will serve his latest sentence concurrently.

Lai, 74, was given a 14-month sentence in April for organising and taking part in unauthorised assemblies in late August 2019, which were part of a series of demonstrations and assemblies in protest against police brutality and the now withdrawn extradition law.  

As a critic of the Chinese Communist Party’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy and civil liberty, Lai has faced repeated arrests and prosecutions over the past year for his involvement in the 2019 protest movement and democratic activism. 

Having been detained and later jailed by the Hong Kong authorities since December 2020, Lai is also facing charges of collusion with foreign forces under the National Security Law and accused of conspiracy to assist an offender and fraud.  

The Hong Kong government has also targeted Next Digital and the group’s flagship newspaper Apple Daily, accusing their seven executives and senior officials of collusion with foreign forces or other charges on national security grounds.  

The Hong Kong edition of Apple Daily was shut down on June 24 shortly after the Hong Kong authorities froze the company’s assets and launched investigation into its executives. At the moment, Next Digital is facing liquidation.  

The IFJ said: “Freedom of expression and assembly are enshrined principles in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Jailing members of the press as well as pro-democracy figures who took part in peaceful demonstrations is an assault on the fundamental rights of the people of Hong Kong. The IFJ calls for all charges against Lai to be dropped and demands he be released immediately." 

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

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

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