Jimmy Lai gets 14 months in jail, hard-won results ‘re-education of HK society’
Published: Apr 16, 2021 09:18 PM
Jimmy Lai Photo:VCG

Jimmy Lai Photo:VCG

Hong Kong's pro-secessionist media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was sentenced to 12 months and eight months in prison, respectively, for attending and organizing two illegal assemblies in August 2019, a local court announced on Friday, one day after the city's first celebration of National Security Education Day on Thursday, also amid the collapse of the city's major pan-democratic group.

Experts said that the sentence of riot leader may serve as reference for future cases, and boost confidence in Hong Kong's political system. 

Lai, 72, has also been charged with another two national security law offenses, including conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or forces to endanger national security, and conspiracy to do one or a series of acts to pervert the course of justice. The case was adjourned at the West Kowloon Court until June 15, and Lai did not apply for bail, Hong Kong media reported on Friday. 

Due to organizing the illegal rally attended by hundreds of thousands of rioters on August 18, 2019, Lai was sentenced to 12 months in jail, while the other eight well-known separatist activists were sentenced from eight to 12 months. Martin Lee Chu-ming, co-founder of the Hong Kong opposition camp, was sentenced for 11 months, suspended for two years.

Lai was also given 8-month jail term, with two months of the sentence to be served in installments, for taking part in an illegal march on August 31, 2019. Hong Kong media said Lai will serve a total of 14 months in prison.  

On April 7, Lai pleaded guilty to taking part in an unauthorized assembly on August 31, 2019 for the first time after the national security law for Hong Kong took effect in June 2020.

Experts believe that giving jail terms to Hong Kong secessionism activists headed by Lai is timely and hard-won results. 

Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, from Nankai University, told the Global Times on Friday that as revising HKSAR's election system is on the agenda, holding riot leaders' accountable will boost the confidence of all sectors of HKSAR towards local political development. 

Li said that it was not easy to sentence these rioters, because in the name of freedom of speech, people used to be afraid of dealing with these radical political representatives due to a kind of social "correctness," so it is easy to be lenient and indulgent toward them. 

It is a positive signal to all Hong Kong people involved in political activities that undermining Hong Kong's political stability is no longer easy, Li noted. 

As for Lai's two new charges, which involve endangering national security, experts say it is too early to judge how the case will be decided, although the charges are more serious than illegal assembly, because there are few references. 

The sentence [in terms of national security] for such a pivotal figure like Lai could set a precedent that could serve as a reference for other cases, Li said.

Lai's sentence also came after four former members of pan-democratic Civil Party, the second largest party of the District Council of HKSAR, on Thursday called for the dissolution of the party, and expressed the willingness to become ordinary people through a joint letter, Hong Kong media reported on Friday. 

Members began to withdraw from the Civil Party in December 2020. In April 2021, pivotal members, including disqualified Legislative Council (LegCo) lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, left the party and moved to Canada with his family, media reported. 

The saga of Lai's trial and sentence, Li said, is the process of re-education for Hong Kong society. "To make the Hong Kong community aware of the complexity and challenges during the implementation of the 'one country, two systems' and the importance of national security," Li said. 

Hong Kong celebrated National Security Education Day on Thursday for the first time after the national security law for the region took effect in 2020. The city government celebrated the day with a grand opening ceremony and a series of activities, as the special administrative region stepped out of the shadows of the previous social turmoil.