Oct 25, 2022 - Economy

Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai convicted of fraud

Photo: Tommy Walker/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Media mogul Jimmy Lai was found guilty by a Hong Kong court of two fraud charges on Tuesday. He's one of the most prominent pro-democracy voices to be prosecuted in the region following sweeping protests in 2019.

Why it matters: The guilty verdict marks a huge loss for press freedoms in Hong Kong, where the government has pushed to stamp out pro-democracy voices after passing a draconian national security law in 2019.

Details: Lai was arrested in 2020, and is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence for charges related to his role in unauthorized demonstrations during the 2019 protests.

  • He is currently awaiting trial on separate national security law charges. The trial, which is expected to take place in December, could have Lai sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment if found guilty.

Catch up quick: Lai founded Next Digital, a media company that housed one of the most widely-read pro-democracy newspapers in Hong Kong, Apple Daily.

The big picture: Press freedom advocates say Lai's conviction is a clear example of ways Hong Kong authorities are using the law to go after independent journalism.

  • "Hong Kong authorities need to stop misusing the court to target people for exercising their rights to freedom," said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, program director at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • Lai, he said, is a symbol of the struggle to maintain peace and freedom in Hong Kong.

"To call it a kangaroo court is unfair to kangaroos!" Mark Clifford, president of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong and former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post, told Axios in an email.

What's next: Lai plans to appeal the charges, a Next Digital executive told CPJ.

Go deeper: Free press crackdowns intensify in Hong Kong

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