Hong Kong: A New Conviction for Jimmy Lai

Quelle: FSSPX News

Jimmy Lai arrested in 2020

Wan Chai District Court has sentenced Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, along with seven others to prison terms for attending the Tiananmen Memorial Vigil on June 4, 2020 which was banned for health reasons.

Jimmy Lai, a declared Catholic, was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Other opponents were sentenced to terms ranging from nine to fourteen months in prison. The heaviest sentence was brought against Lee Cheuk-yan, former president of the Alliance (Alliance in support of the patriotic and democratic movements of China, a movement which has always organized the June 4 vigils).

About 15 other activists, already convicted for the same vigil, received sentences ranging from six to ten months in prison. Jimmy Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan's sentences will, however, be inclusive - served at the same time - with those they are currently serving.

For 30 years, a “remembrance vigil” has been organized in Hong Kong in memory of the victims of the June 4, 1989 repression of Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The People's Liberation Army had entered, with tanks, the square occupied by tens of thousands of people, mostly students. The number of victims is not known with certainty.

For the first time, the Hong Kong police refused permission to hold the demonstration for health reasons, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Permission was also refused in 2021. But a thousand people nevertheless gathered on June 4, 2020, and then dispersed after lighting candles and shouting a few slogans. The police did not have to intervene.

The judgment acknowledges that Jimmy Lai left the scene promptly, but says his very presence was an act intended to draw attention to the illegal gathering that followed. “He does not have to verbally incite to have the intention to incite,” said the judgment.

Defense lawyers pointed out the illegitimacy of the ban: the epidemic was very well controlled, and at the time schools, shops, public transport, and even nightclubs and karaoke clubs were open.

A few days before the public session, the verdict was announced by Judge Amanda Woodcock, in the presence of relatives of the three defendants, as well as several Western diplomats. Cardinal Joseph Zen, a great friend of Jimmy Lai, was present.

A Hong Kong journalist remarked: “A few years ago, participating in an illegal gathering resulted, in the worst case, in a fine of 1,500 dollars (160 euros) and a few days of community service.” But, the fact that it was a commemoration of June 4, 1989 made this trial eminently political.

Alliance Chairman Chow Hang-tung said in his plea, “We have left traces, a history of remembrance of Tiananmen. Whether or not the court hears our arguments is minor. What matters is that we cannot be silenced.”

Jimmy Lai, through the voice of his lawyer, made this beautiful statement: “If remembering those who died, victims of injustice, is a crime, make me pay for this crime so that I share the glorious burden of these young people whose blood flowed on June 4 [1989].”

On July 1, 2020, a controversial national security law came into effect in Hong Kong, after being imposed on the territory by Beijing. The Chinese government thus seized power to suppress pro-democracy protests. Lai’s recent conviction was not passed under this law, but he is also charged under the Security Act.

Benedict Rogers, chief executive of the UK-based Hong Kong Watch, said the recent convictions violate Hong Kong’s basic law, or constitution.

“These sentences mock claims that the Hong Kong government continues to uphold the basic law, which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of religion or belief,” he said on December 9.

“It is increasingly clear that the Hong Kong government is little more than a vassal of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. Bereft of autonomy, decency, and common sense, it seems determined to erase the autonomy, culture, and history of Hong Kong,” he wrote.

As a reminder, nearly 200 police officers arrested Lai on August 10, 2020, along with at least nine other people linked to the Apple Daily newspaper, in a crackdown on civil liberties in the island territory. They raided the newspaper's offices and seized material, which led to the cessation of publication.