|Jimmy Lai (NY Times)|
The NY Times reports the 73-year-old founder of a fiercely pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong, Lai helped give voice to critics of the city’s leaders and their bosses in Beijing, winning friends in Washington and other places along the way.
Now, for one of his acts of defiance, Lai is going to prison.
A Hong Kong court on Friday sentenced Mr. Lai to 12 months in prison for his role in a peaceful demonstration in 2019 against Beijing’s encroachment over the semiautonomous territory. Three activists and a labor leader were given sentences of eight to 18 months for their role in the protest.
Other prominent opposition figures received suspended sentences, meaning they would avoid being put behind bars if they are not convicted of another crime in the next two years. They included Martin Lee, an 82-year-old lawyer who is often called Hong Kong’s “father of democracy,” who was given an 11-month suspended term.
The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years in prison the defendants had faced. Still, they sent an unmistakable message that activism carries severe risks for even the most internationally prominent opposition figures. Supporters of the defendants say the sentences are the latest sign of the fundamental transformation that Beijing has sought to impose on Hong Kong, once a bastion of free speech, to silence dissent.