Dec 10, 2022 - World

Jimmy Lai, pro-democracy tycoon, sentenced to 5 years in Hong Kong prison

Jimmy Lai, founder and chairman of Next Digital Ltd., center, leaves the High Court.

Jimmy Lai, founder and chairman of Next Digital Ltd., leaves the court. Photo: Roy Liu/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hong Kong sentenced a pro-democracy media tycoon to five years and nine months in prison Saturday, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: The media mogul, Jimmy Lai, is considered one of the most prominent critics of China, and activists see his sentencing as a major blow to freedom within the city, The New York Times reports.

Details: Lai was found guilty of two counts of fraud for violating the terms of a lease contract for his pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, Reuters reports.

  • He was charged in 2020 for renting space to his own consultancy firm, Dico Consultants Ltd, violating the contract.
  • Judge Stanley Chan said Saturday that the violations were “organized and planned" over 20 years and Lai used Next Digital as “an umbrella of protection," according to AP.
  • He said the protection of Lai "wasn't equivalent to an attack on press freedom," per Reuters.

Flashback: Lai has been behind bars since he was arrested during Hong Kong's crackdown on protests in 2019, per AP.

  • The anti-government protests led to a number of arrests of top executives and activists.
  • Hong Kong authorities "detained opposition figures, forced news outlets to close and arrested and jailed protesters and activists," according to The New York Times.

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