May 29, 2021 - World

Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy activists given extra prison time

Photo of a person wearing handcuffs and raising their arms high while they are detained by police
Pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan makes a gesture as he arrives at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, one of the largest prisons in Hong Kong, on April 16. Photo: Anthony Kwan via Getty Images

Hong Kong authorities on Friday sentenced 10 pro-democracy politicians and activists, including media mogul Jimmy Lai, to an extra 14-18 months in prison over a 2019 protest, the South China Morning Post reports.

Why it matters: It's another signal that the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly trying to silence dissidents in Hong Kong.

  • The sentencing was handed down ahead of the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, when the People's Liberation Army cracked down on mass, student-led democracy protests.

Details: All 10 individuals have pleaded guilty to organizing the protest, which took place Oct. 1, 2020, and led to clashes. Law enforcement had banned the gathering.

  • Lai, who is currently detained pending trial under the CCP's national security law, was sentenced to an additional 14 months.
  • Protest organizer Figo Chan and former lawmakers Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung each received 18-month prison sentences. Lee and Leung were already imprisoned after earlier convictions involving other protests.
  • At the sentencing on Friday, Judge Amanda Woodcock said, "They did call for a peaceful, rational and non-violent procession but how naive and unrealistic was that considering what was happening on a daily basis was the opposite,” according to SCMP.

The big picture: Authorities have banned the annual June 4 vigil marking the Tiananmen Square massacre for the second year in a row, citing COVID concerns, per SCMP.

  • More than 10,000 people were arrested during Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests. Roughly 2,500 have been convicted, AFP reports.
  • More than 100 people face charges under the national security law, which can carry imprisonment for life.
  • Other activists called the sentencing excessive and a setback for the movement, according to SCMP.
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