Billionaire media mogul Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to 14 months in prison after being found guilty for unauthorised assembly. He faces another six separate charges under a Chinese national security law which criminalises secession and subversion, and for these he could be imprisoned for life. His online publication Apple Daily is known for being fiercely anti-Beijing. Other activists sentenced on the same day included Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party and the barrister Margaret Ng, among others.
His arrest is part of a wider conflict between mainland China and Hong Kong, which was returned to China by the British in 1997. This agreement covered a ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which allowed Hong Kong many democratic and judiciary freedoms that mainland China does not have. In recent years, Hongkongers have protested against increased restrictions on these freedoms by China, which in 2019 led to violent clashes between protesters and police in the city.
Since then, over 100 activists have been arrested by the Chinese government. These include barristers, politicians and students, people of all ages and stations. Aside from threatening personal liberties, Hongkongers also worry that China’s control of the city will have a negative impact on its economic prospects to foreign investors.