The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today vehemently condemned a second prison sentence handed today to Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai.
A court in Hong Kong today sentenced Lai, founder of Next Digital media group, which publishes the Apple Daily, to 14 months in prison after finding him guilty of participating and organizing an illegal demonstration two years ago. He is currently in prison serving a 12-month sentence in another case.
“We deplore this latest prison sentence imposed on Jimmy Lai, which must be seen in the context of Lai’s position as a leading publisher of critical news in Hong Kong”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “These prosecutions are meant to send a signal that independent voices in Hong Kong are no longer welcome and will no longer tolerated.”
Lai was arrested last year on August 10 from his home on the charge of “collusion with foreign forces” and was convicted on April 1 on the charges of organizing and participating in anti-government protests in 2019. On April 16 he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. According to the judgement pronounced today, Lai will serve two months of the new sentence consecutively with the previous sentence and remain in prison for 20 months.
As part of its continuing harassment of Lai, citing the National Security law, the Hong Kong government on May 14 issued notices freezing his share in Next Digital media as well as all local bank accounts of three companies he owns. Three days later the shares were suspended.
The Hong Kong administration sent letters to Lai’s bankers threatening that they could face seven years in prison if they continued to deal with the publisher’s account.
The media tycoon also faces two other charges under the National Security Law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong last year on the pretext of curbing secession and subversion. He could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Following the enactment of the National Security Law, Chinese and Hong Kong officials had assured that the law will deal with only a few offenders and that the rights enjoyed by the residents of the territory, including press freedom, would not be affected.