Jimmy Lai: who is Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and Apple Daily founder - and why has he been sentenced for second time?

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been handed a fresh prison sentence over an anti-government protest in 2019

Millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to 12 months in jail. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty)
Millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to 12 months in jail. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty)

A Hong Kong court has sentenced the Apple Daily founder, Jimmy Lai, 73, for a second time over his role in an anti-government protest in 2019.

Lai and nine others were charged with incitement to take part in an unauthorised assembly when they walked down a road with thousands of residents on October 1, 2019, to protest against dwindling political freedoms in Hong Kong.

What did the activists do?

The five pro-democracy figures sentenced to jail terms were found guilty in April for organising and participating in a massive protest in August 2019.

An estimated 1.7 million people marched in opposition to a bill that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.

The march was not authorised by the police.

Hong Kong had enjoyed a vibrant political culture and freedoms not seen elsewhere in China during the decades it was a British colony between 1841 to 1941 and again from 1945 to 1997.

Beijing had pledged to allow the city to retain civil liberties for 50 years after it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, recently the Chinese capital has ushered in a series of measures, including national security legislation and electoral reforms that many fear are a step closer to making Hong Kong no different from mainland cities.

Who is Jimmy Lai?

Lai was the founder of Hong Kong's Apple Daily tabloid in 1995, which was originally seen as a tabloid.

Now, the pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong is known for giving a voice to critics of Beijing’s leaders and mainland China.

Lai made his fortune in the clothing industry after he worked his way up from a laborer and later he invested his money into news.

The media tycoon was sentenced to 12 months in prison on Friday.

He was already held on other charges, including collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city's affairs, a new crime under a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the city in 2020.

Who were the other activists sentenced?

Martin Lee is an 82-year-old politician and former lawmaker known for his advocacy for human rights and democracy.

Reportedly, he is called Hong Kong’s ‘father of democracy’.

The court suspended the 11-month prison sentence of Martin Lee for two years because of his age.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker was sentenced to 12 months in prison.

Cheuk-yan helped organise annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Lawyers Albert Ho and Margaret Ng both had their 12-month jail sentences suspended for two years.

Former politician Leung Kwok-hung was sentenced to 18 months, while another former legislator, Cyd Ho, was given a jail sentence of eight months.

Two other former politicians, Au Nok-hin and Leung Yiu-chung, who previously pleaded guilty, were also given jail sentences.

Au got 10 months while Leung's eight-month jail term was suspended for one year.

Why has Jimmy Lai been sentenced again?

In May 2021 – Hong Kong media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to more jail time over his role in the anti-government protest in 2019.

The 73-year-old was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

He is currently serving a separate 14-month jail term for other convictions earlier this year also related to unauthorised rallies in 2019.

Hundreds of thousands repeatedly took to the streets in the biggest challenge to Beijing since the city was handed from British to Chinese control in 1997.

With the two sentences combined, Lai will serve a total of 20 months behind bars.

Over the past year, Beijing has clamped down on civil liberties in response to protests.

It comes as authorities for the second year have banned a 4 June vigil in Victoria park commemorating the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square because of social distancing rules, The Guardian reports.

On Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature, which is dominated by pro-Beijing lawmakers, passed a bill reducing the public’s ability to vote and increased the number of lawmakers appointed by a largely pro-Beijing committee.