Jimmy Lai has been found guilty of taking part and “inciting others to participate” in last year’s unauthorized gathering commemorating Tiananmen protest victims.
The Hong Kong District Court judge ruled on Thursday that the media mogul appeared at an assembly that was held in Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, as a public figure, drawing attention to the vigil. “There is no need to say seditious words to incite others,” 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 “another attack” on democracy and Hong Kong’s autonomy and defied the ban, with thousands of people taking part in “illegal” vigils.
In 2019-2020, Hong Kong witnessed huge rallies against new legislation promoted by Beijing. Protesters, actively supported by the West, claimed the region’s autonomy is in danger. Beijing said it was acting to defend Hong Kong from external interference.
Lai, founder of the prominent opposition newspaper Apple Daily, which recently shut down citing “the current circumstances prevailing 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.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 13, each of the trio is facing up to five years in jail. Out of 26 defendants in this case, 21 had earlier pleaded guilty and two had fled Hong Kong. Lai, Chow and Ho were the last to be sentenced.