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Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Context: Pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, the 73-year-old founder of Hong Kong's Apple Daily tabloid and an open critic of the party, was arrested and charged with "colluding with foreign forces" in December 2020 under Hong Kong's new national security law imposed by Beijing earlier that year.

  • His arrest drew condemnation from Western governments and international human rights groups.
  • Lai and others were found guilty earlier in April of organizing and participating in two protests in 2019 that had been banned by police.

The big picture: Lai was sentenced to a total of 14 months in prison and was given two additional charges, according to AP.

  • Also among those sentenced was Martin Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer often referred to as Hong Kong’s “father of democracy,” who received 11 months in prison, according to the New York Times.

Go deeper: With Hong Kong arrests, China outlaws democracy itself

Go deeper

Florida lawmakers send controversial "anti-riot" bill to Gov. DeSantis

Protesters confronting police in riot gear in May 2020 in Miami, Florida, during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd. Photo: Adam Delguidice/AFP via Getty Images

Florida state lawmakers sent a bill that stiffens penalties against violent protesters to Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) desk on Thursday, according to AP.

Why it matters: Opponents say the bill seeks to curtail the Black Lives Matter movement and the right to free speech and peaceably assemble. It comes amid the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd, which set off waves of protests across the country last summer.

Updated 29 mins ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.

Updated 31 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

The latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

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