Another sentence: 18 months more in prison for Jimmy Lai and 9 other Democrats

He is found guilty of organizing or taking part in an unauthorized demonstration in October 2019. Tougher punishment for Figo Chan, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho. All the defendants are on trial for other charges. Activists: the city is now an open-air "prison".

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The District Court today sentenced Jimmy Lai and nine other democratic personalities to 14 and 18 months in prison. They have been found guilty of having organized, participated or incited to take part in an unauthorized demonstration on 1 October 2019: one of the many protest initiatives carried out by the democracy movement against the pro-Beijing authorities.

 All the defendants, including the publishing magnate, pleaded guilty on 17 May.

Lai received a 14-month sentence. He has been detained for months for participating in two unauthorized demonstrations in August 2019, and is on trial for threatening national security.

The toughest sentence was imposed on Figo Chan, coordinator of Civil Human Rights, former parliamentarian Lee Cheuk-yan, former Democratic Party leader Albert Ho and "long hair" activist Leung Kwok-hung: Judge Amanda Woodcock imposed an 18-month prison sentence on each.

Like Lai, former MPs Yeung Sum and Cyd Ho were sentenced to 14 months.

The same verdict, but with suspended sentence, was handed down to Avery Ng, secretary general of the League of Social Democrats, Sin Chung-kai and Richard Tsoi, two leading figures of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the group that the 4 June each year organizes the traditional vigil in remembrance of the Tiananmen massacre.

All of the defendants are on trial for other charges, some related to the alleged violation of the national security law wanted by Beijing. Currently Leung has to serve 22 months in prison; 20 each Lai and Lee; Ho one year.

Woodcock said the sentence must have a "deterrent" effect. According to the judge, the Basic Law (the city's mini-constitution) protects freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate and protest, but not in an absolute sense. As an aggravating circumstance, she stressed that the offending demonstration has degenerated into violence, an accusation that the defendants have rejected.

Supporters of the condemned in the courtroom strongly criticized the sentence. They denounce that Hong Kong has now become an open-air "prison" where freedom of speech is forbidden.