After pleading guilty to charges of engaging in an unlawful march during mass anti-government demonstrations in 2019, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai and two pro-democracy activists face five years in jail.
The guilty plea to participating in the citywide illegal demonstration comes only a week after Lai and six other demonstrators were found guilty of unauthorised assembly in a separate court case.
Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum were the other activists who pleaded guilty.
“I plead guilty, but I’ve done no wrong in affirming the rights of people to peaceful procession and I believe history will absolve me,” Lee said.
In both cases, sentences will be handed out later. Five years in jail is the maximum penalty that can be imposed.
The 2019 pro-democracy protests were sparked by Beijing’s tightening grip on broad freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, plunging the semi-autonomous city into its worst crisis since the handover.
Beijing has since tightened its authoritarian hold on Hong Kong by enacting a broad national security law that punishes everything it considers to be secession, subversion, insurgency, or collaboration with foreign powers with prison terms of up to life.
Supporters of the law say that it has brought peace to the country after the long period of unrest in 2019.
Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily tabloid, has been a regular visitor to Washington, DC, where he has met with officials such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an attempt to gather support for Hong Kong democracy.
Beijing branded him a “traitor” as a result of this.
Colluding with foreign powers, a charge under the new security law, is one of the allegations facing the tycoon, who has been in jail for months after being refused bail in another case.
His repeated arrests have drew international condemnation from governments and human rights organizations.
The riots in August 2019 were among the worst in Hong Kong’s history, with police shooting tear gas and water cannons at pro-democracy demonstrators, who retaliated with petrol bombs.
Source: ABC World News