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Media mogul Jimmy Lai, others sentenced for 2019 Hong Kong mass protests

Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, is escorted by police after he was arrested at his home in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020. File Photo by Vernon Yuen/EPA-EFE
Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, is escorted by police after he was arrested at his home in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020. File Photo by Vernon Yuen/EPA-EFE

April 16 (UPI) -- Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai and Democratic Party founding chair Martin Lee Chu-ming were sentenced Friday over two anti-government protests in 2019 that opposed influence from mainland China.

In West Kowloon Magistrates' Court, Lai received a 14-month sentence for his part in what Hong Kong officials called an unauthorized assembly during widespread anti-government protests. Lee received a suspended 11-month sentence in connection with the same marches.

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Former Hong Kong legislators Leung Kwok-hung (18 months), Cyd Ho (8 months), AuNok-hin (10 months), Margaret Ng (12 months), Leung Yiu-chung (8 months) and Albert Ho (12 months) were also sentenced for their roles in the protests.

Some of the sentences given Friday were suspended.

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Nearly 2 million people participated in a peaceful march in Hong Kong on Aug. 18, 2019, and thousands gathered for a rally two weeks later, which was largely peaceful but ended with clashes between activists and Hong Kong police.

The mass protests began in 2019 over the passage of a law that permitted the extradition of defendants in criminal cases from Hong Kong to China. The protests went on for months and progressed to include other issues like police brutality.

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District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock said the defendants had a "premeditated plan" to defy the law enforcement during the rallies.

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"[The case] involved a direct challenge to the police all defendants were well-known [figures], which would guarantee to draw crowds and followers," Woodcock said, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. "They made a conscious decision to break the law during a volatile time."

Lai and others spent weeks in custody pending the outcome of the trial.

"Having arrested the majority of Hong Kong's most prominent dissidents using the repressive national security law, the authorities are now mopping up remaining peaceful critics under the pretext of bogus charges related to the 2019 protests," Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said in a statement.

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