Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been jailed for 12 months, along with four other veteran democracy activists, for helping to lead one of the city’s biggest-ever protests.
Organizers say 1.7 million people – almost one-quarter of Hong Kong’s population – turned out for a massive rally that formed the backbone of demonstrations that wracked the city throughout 2019.
Lai was on Friday among nine of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy campaigners found guilty of organizing and participating in the rally. Many of them have spent decades advocating non-violence in their ultimately fruitless campaign for universal suffrage.
Lai, 73, was sentenced to 12 months in prison while four other campaigners were jailed for between eight and 18 months. Martin Lee, 82, a respected barrister known as the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, is the other defendant. The latter was once chosen by Beijing to help write the city’s mini-constitution.
They also include Margaret Ng, a 73-year-old barrister, and former opposition lawmaker.
Seven of the defendants who had earlier pleaded not guilty submitted their mitigation on Friday morning.
“There is no right so precious to the people of Hong Kong as the freedom of expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly,” said Ng, who discharged her legal team and gave her statement in person.
She added that she’s prepared to stand with and stand up for the people who “in the last resort, had to give the collective expression of their anguish and urge the government to respond”.