Jimmy Lai and Other Hong Kong Activists Are Sentenced Over Oct. 1 Protest
HONG KONG — Ten pro-democracy activists have been sentenced in Hong Kong on Friday to jail phrases starting from 14 months to 18 months over a 2019 protest, the newest in a sequence of powerful punishments which have put a lot of the Chinese language territory’s opposition camp behind bars, with many extra awaiting trial.
All of them pleaded responsible this month to organizing the protest, which had been banned by the police and befell on Oct. 1, China’s Nationwide Day. As they led a march on Hong Kong Island, clashes broke out throughout town in a number of the worst protest violence that yr.
A few of these sentenced on Friday, together with the media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the labor chief Lee Cheuk-yan and the activist Leung Kwok-hung, who is best generally known as Lengthy Hair, had already been imprisoned after earlier protest convictions. Two of the sentences, given to the politicians Sin Chung-kai and Richard Tsoi, have been suspended for 2 years.
Fernando Cheung, a pro-democracy former lawmaker, mentioned Friday that “such extreme punishments” despatched a message of deterrence to the individuals of Hong Kong days earlier than an annual June 4 vigil to honor the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Sq. protests. On Thursday, the Hong Kong police blocked the occasion for the second yr in a row, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally on Friday, Hong Kong’s Excessive Courtroom issued an evidence for why it had denied bail to Claudia Mo, a reasonable former lawmaker who’s amongst 47 pro-democracy activists charged underneath a draconian new nationwide safety legislation. Decide Esther Toh cited, amongst different causes, “accusations of desperation and lack of human rights and freedom” that Ms. Mo had made in interviews and WhatsApp conversations with journalists from worldwide information organizations, together with The New York Occasions.
Activists, lecturers and others are more and more cautious of talking to the overseas information media in Hong Kong, the place press freedom is enshrined within the native structure however underneath rising menace.
The array of instances in opposition to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists is a part of a broad marketing campaign by the Chinese language authorities to subdue political opposition and constrain the dissent that fueled huge avenue protests in 2019.
The authorities have been aided of their crackdown by each the safety legislation and extra assertive use of what was already on the books.
What’s the nationwide safety legislation?
The safety legislation, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020, targets terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion with overseas forces. Its sweeping language, a lot of which has but to be examined in courts, provides the authorities new powers to dam web sites, freeze property, perform searches with out warrants, dispense with jury trials and maintain defendants with out bail.
It additionally permits for defendants in some instances to be tried underneath mainland legislation in courts managed by the ruling Communist Occasion.
The legislation has prompted individuals to hunt asylum in Australia, Canada, the USA and elsewhere, and raised fears for the way forward for Hong Kong’s colleges, judicial system and even inventive expression.
Who has been arrested?
Greater than 10,200 individuals have been arrested in reference to the antigovernment protests, the Hong Kong Division of Justice mentioned in April. Of these, greater than 2,500 have been prosecuted and greater than 600 convicted on fees together with illegal meeting, arson, rioting, possession of offensive weapons, assaulting a police officer and desecrating the Chinese language nationwide flag.
Individually, greater than 100 individuals have been arrested underneath the safety legislation or by the native police unit that was arrange final summer season to implement it. Of these, 57 have been charged, John Lee, the safety secretary, mentioned final week.
Together with hundreds of peculiar residents as younger as 12, the arrests have swept up a number of the metropolis’s most outstanding pro-democracy figures, together with the younger activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, Mr. Lai, 73, and Martin Lee, 82, a former lawmaker who is named Hong Kong’s “father of democracy.”
However they’ve additionally prolonged all the best way all the way down to district councilors, elected officers who deal with neighborhood-level points like rubbish assortment. The District Councils, which have been dominated by the opposition since a landslide election victory in November 2019, are seen because the final formal foothold of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy motion in spite of everything of its supporters within the legislature resigned in protest late final yr.
How are the nationwide safety instances totally different?
Nationwide safety fees can carry life sentences, relying on how critical the courts discover the instances to be. The excessive threshold for bail signifies that most of those that have been charged are more likely to spend months if not years in jail earlier than they go to trial.
The biggest set of nationwide safety arrests befell in January, when 55 pro-democracy politicians and activists have been detained, many in early-morning raids. They’d organized or participated in an off-the-cuff major election in July through which greater than 600,000 individuals selected pro-democracy candidates to run within the metropolis’s legislative election two months later. That election was postponed by the Hong Kong authorities quickly after the first and is now scheduled for Dec. 19, by which period new electoral restrictions will probably be in place.
Of the 55 individuals arrested, 47 have been formally charged in February with conspiracy to commit subversion, a violation of the safety legislation. Prosecutors mentioned the pro-democracy bloc deliberate to win a majority within the legislature and then “indiscriminately” veto the federal government finances as a option to power Hong Kong’s chief, Carrie Lam, to resign. Thirty-six of the 47 defendants have been denied bail in 4 days of marathon hearings throughout which a number of have been hospitalized with exhaustion.
These charged cowl a large political spectrum, from Mr. Leung, an avowed radical, to reasonable democrats just like the barrister Alvin Yeung. Their unifying perception was a want for common suffrage in a metropolis the place democracy has lengthy been hobbled.
Other nationwide safety arrests have included 4 younger activists who have been former members of a pro-independence group; Mr. Lai, his two sons and a number of staff of his firm, Subsequent Digital; and 11 individuals suspected of aiding a gaggle of activists who tried to flee to Taiwan by boat final yr whereas dealing with fees associated to the 2019 protests.
Listed here are a number of the instances to observe.
Mr. Lai, who was sentenced to 14 months on Friday over the Oct. 1 protest, bringing his complete jail time period to twenty months, nonetheless faces further instances together with fraud, aiding an escape try and nationwide safety fees of collusion with overseas forces. He’s additionally one in every of 24 activists charged with collaborating final yr within the banned Tiananmen vigil. 4 of the activists charged, together with Mr. Wong, have been sentenced this month to between 4 and 10 months in jail.
9 of the 12 activists who tried to flee to Taiwan have been charged in Hong Kong with “perverting the course of justice.” They have been detained in mainland China for months after being caught at sea by the authorities there. Relying on which court docket they’re tried in, they might withstand life imprisonment if convicted.
Trials underneath the safety legislation are set to start June 23 with Tong Ying-kit, 24, who prosecutors say collided with law enforcement officials whereas driving a bike with a Hong Kong liberation flag on the again. He was amongst 10 protesters arrested on suspicion of violating the safety legislation on July 1, the primary day it was in impact and the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese language rule in 1997. Mr. Tong, who has been in custody since shortly after his arrest, is accused of terrorism and inciting secession. His bid for a jury trial was rejected.
How has the remainder of the world responded?
The USA, Britain and different nations have criticized the safety legislation and China’s rising clampdown on Hong Kong. Some nations have dropped extradition agreements with Hong Kong and made it simpler for individuals from town to to migrate or search asylum. The USA has additionally imposed sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese language officers who’ve led the crackdown.
The Chinese language authorities has rejected criticism of its insurance policies in Hong Kong, framing it as interference in its inner affairs and a software to extend stress at a time of rising stress between China and the West.
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