Hong Kong media mogul convicted for joining banned vigil — Analysis
Jimmy Lai has been found guilty of taking part and “inciting others to participate” in last year’s unauthorized gathering commemorating Tiananmen protest victims.
A judge from Hong Kong’s District Court decided on Thursday that the media mogul attended an assembly in Victoria Park on June 4, 2019, as a public figure. The ruling brought more attention to the vigil. “To incite others to speak seditious language, there is no need.” said the judge.
Hong Kong has held large vigils every year to commemorate the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on protesters, but the past two gatherings were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, anti-Beijing activists considered it “An additional attack” on democracy and Hong Kong’s autonomy and defied the ban, with thousands of people taking part in “Illegal” vigils.
The massive protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s new laws were witnessed between 2019 and 2020. Protesters, actively supported by the West, claimed the region’s autonomy is in danger. Beijing stated that it was working to protect Hong Kong from foreign interference.
Lai, founder of the prominent opposition newspaper Apple Daily, which recently shut down citing “Current circumstances in Hong Kong”, was found guilty along with two high-profile anti-Beijing activists – barrister Chow Hang-tung and former opposition politician Gwyneth Ho. All three had pleaded not guilty, saying that they were taking part in the vigil as private citizens and did not incite others – something that the judge found a “Nonsensical” argument.
The sentencing of each defendant is set for December 13th. Each one could spend up to five consecutive years in prison. Twenty-one of the 26 defendants were convicted in previous cases. Two fled Hong Kong. Lai, Chow, and Ho were sentenced last.