Hong Kong: pro-democracy activists sentenced


Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced on April 16 for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy,” and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years  the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International‘s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said: “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city.” (BBC News, NYT, Al Jazeera, Amnesty International)

Justifying the sentences, Judge Amanda Woodcock wrote: “It is a serious factor that despite [the] risk and knowing the Commissioner of Police had banned all meetings and processions…the defendants went to join with others…to participate in a procession and ignore the ban and reasons for it.”

Jimmy Lai, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung are also facing prosecution under the new National Security Law that Beijing has imposed on Hong Kong.  (Jurist)

On April 13, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong, 24, was sentenced to four months for taking part in an unauthorized assembly and violating an anti-mask law during a demonstration in October 2019. Wong—who is currently just over four months into a separate 13-month term for another unauthorized assembly in June 2019—had pleaded guilty in January. (HKFP)

Screws tightened on elections
Also April 13, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced that those who “openly incite” voters to cast blank or invalid ballots in an election could face legal action under a new bill before the city’s Legislative Council. The Improving Electoral System Bill 2021 would criminalize advocacy of boycotting elections.

Last month, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing unanimously approved a plan that would give China’s national security bodies greater authority to select candidates for political office in Hong Kong.

The next Legislative Council elections are set for Dec. 19. They had originally been slated for last September, but the government postponed the vote, citing COVID-19 concerns. Opposition figures accused the government of maneuvering to forestall an electoral defeat. (HKFP, NYT, Jurist)

Photo: Iris Wong/Wikimedia

  1. Hong Kong freezes assets of pro-democracy newspaper publisher

    Hong Kong’s Security Bureau announced May 14 that it had frozen assets belonging to pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying. This was the first time that authorities used the seizure powers granted to them under the new national security law. (Jurist)

  2. HK court refuses jury trial in first National Security Law case

    The Hong Kong Court of First Instance denied a bid on Thursday for a jury trial by the first person charged under the country’s new security law, Tong Ying-kit. The court found that a trial in front of a jury is not a constitutional right.

    Tong is facing life in prison and will face trial before a panl of judges on June 23. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has picked several judges for the case—all with past histories of taking strict and conservative approaches to criminal trials. (Jurist)

  3. More HK pro-democracy leaders sentenced

    Hong Kong protest coalition leader Figo Chan and ex-lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung were each handed 18-month terms over a banned protest on China National Day in 2019. The sentences are to be served concurrently. 

    Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was handed 14 months for his organizing role. Lai, 73, was sentenced to 14 months in prison. He is currently serving a separate 14-month term for other convictions earlier this year also related to unauthorized rallies With the two sentences combined, Lai will serve a total of 20 months behind bars. 

    Activist Avery Ng and Richard Tsoi of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China were both given 14 months for organizing the protest and nine months for taking part. Tsoi’s sentence was suspended for two years, while Ng will serve 14 months and 14 days owing to an active suspended sentence. (HKFP, AP)

    Jimmy Lai, 73, still faces charges of colluding with a foreign power under the National Security law, which could land him life in prison. He has been in jail since December after being denied bail in the national security trials. (Al Jazeera)

  4. Agnes Chow released from prison

    Hong Kong opposition activist Agnes Chow Ting was released from prison on June 12, after serving about six months for her role in a 15-hour siege of police headquarters during the 2019 anti-government protests.

    Last August, Chow was also arrested under the new National Security Law. She was granted bail and has not been formally charged, but her passport was confiscated and has not been returned. (SCMP)

  5. HK police raid Apple Daily office, arrest executives

    Over 200 Hong Kong police officers raided the headquarters of local pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily on June 17 and arrested five senior executives on suspicion of violating the Beijing-imposed National Security Law. (HKFP)

  6. Hong Kong: Apple Daily suspends publication

    Hong Kong pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily announced June 23 that is ceasing publication, and that the next day’s edition will be the last. The 26-year-old newspaper is unable to pay staff after HK$18 million worth of its assets were frozen by the authorities following the arrest of five top executives. The decision to cease publication was announced on the same day that an Apple Daily opinion writer,  Ching-Kei (pen name Li Ping), was arrested under the National Security Law. (HKFP)

  7. First charged under HK National Security Law found guilty

    The first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s National Security Law has been found guilty. Tong Ying-kit was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism after riding a motorbike into police and flying a flag calling for Hong Kong’s “liberation.” Tong could face life in prison. His sentencing is due at a later date. More than 100 people have been arrested under the law since it came into force in 2019. (BBC News)

  8. First charged under HK National Security Law sentenced

    A Hong Kong man has been sentenced to nine years in prison under the National Security Law. Tong Ying-kit, 24, was earlier found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. More than 100 people have been arrested under the new law since it came into force last year. (BBC News)