Jimmy Lai, two other Hong Kong activists sentenced for forbidden Tiananmen vigil

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Jailed Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai was among three democracy activists sentenced Thursday for attending a banned vigil in Tiananmen as the prosecution of several activists came to an end.

Lai, 74, owner of the now-closed pro-democracy Apple Daily, was convicted of illegal assembly charges alongside former journalist Gwyneth Ho and prominent human rights lawyer Chow Hang- tung.

Authorities indicted more than two dozen pro-democracy politicians and activists over a vigil last year, which commemorated the victims of Beijing’s deadly crackdown in 1989.

The trio were the only ones to challenge their charges in court, meaning they were the last to receive their verdict.

The Hong Kong District Court sentenced them for inciting and participating in an unauthorized rally.

Concretely, the convictions make a minimal difference.

Lai, Chow and Ho are among dozens of activists already behind bars facing separate prosecutions under a strict national security law that Beijing has imposed on Hong Kong following massive and often violent protests. for democracy two years ago.

But their lawsuits are the latest illustration of the bridging gap between Hong Kong and the mainland, where authorities have long sought to erase official Tiananmen memorabilia and archives.

For three decades, the annual Hong Kong candlelight vigil on June 4 would draw tens of thousands of people, who – with its slogans for democracy and the end of one-party rule in China – have become a symbol of political freedoms which enjoys the city.

But Hong Kong officials have banned the last two vigils citing both the coronavirus pandemic and security fears.

This year, Beijing has made it clear that it will no longer tolerate Tiananmen commemorations in Hong Kong or Macau, the only two places in China where the public commemoration could take place.

Several organizers of the annual vigil – including Chow – were accused of subversion to national security, while a museum they ran on June 4 was closed by authorities and its exhibits were blown away.

Lawsuits against illegal gatherings have been brought against activists who took part in both the banned Tiananmen vigils in 2020 and this year.

Previously, 16 politicians and activists – including prominent activist Joshua Wong – were sentenced to six to 10 months in prison for their role in the vigil, with some suspended sentences.

(AFP)

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