Jimmy Lai, the founder of the pro-democracy and anti-communist newspaper Apple Daily, was sentenced to prison by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Journalists Gwyneth Ho and lawyer Chow Hang-tung were also convicted as leading human rights activists in China. 

A Hong Kong court convicted the three pro-democracy activists on Thursday, Dec. 9, on charges associated with their participation in a vigil commemorating the 2020 Tiananmen massacre. The virgil had been banned by the CCP using the coronavirus pandemic as an argument, reported The Guardian.

The tycoon, the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, has been convicted of allegedly inciting others to participate in an “unauthorized rally.”

Lawyer Chow was found guilty of inciting others to participate in the banned vigil, while journalist Ho was convicted of participating in the gathering. Final sentences will be handed down on Monday, Dec. 13.

The three activists were already in detention on various charges related to the strict National Security Law of the Chinese Special Administrative Region, imposed in 2020 by the CCP to control dissidents in the semi-autonomous city.

The defendants had previously pleaded not guilty to all charges for which they have been brought to trial and have defended in court that the conviction would violate their freedom of speech and assembly rights.

The Tiananmen massacre vigil has been held every year for more than 30 years. More and more dissidents are coming to peacefully protest against the authoritarian CCP that illegitimately rules the city—exploiting and impoverishing its population. 

The pandemic caused by the Wuhan coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease was the perfect excuse for the CCP to ban the popular demonstration even though the positive cases published by the health authorities were minimal.  

Although gatherings of more than eight people were banned, thousands of Hong Kongers decided to rebel against the CCP’s authoritarian rules and approach the square to peacefully protest with a lighted candle. 

As a result, more than 3,000 Hong Kong police officers were deployed around the square to prevent any attempt by the people to enter the grounds to demonstrate.

The police presence aroused anger in some of those present, and some clashes with police were recorded.

At least 26 activists were arrested in connection with the vigil, including Jimmy Lai and many members of the alliance organizing the annual event.

The group announced its dissolution in September in the face of accusations by authorities that it was working for foreign interests. Meanwhile, Lai had to cancel the publication of his newspaper Apple Daily.

Many opponents have managed to go into exile, and although they cannot return to their home country for fear of imprisonment, they can lead at least a reasonably everyday life away from their loved ones. 

Others, less fortunate, have been arrested and sentenced to prison, as is the case of prominent youth leader Joshua Wong, who was sentenced along with 16 other politicians to between six and ten months in jail for their participation in the 2020 activity.

The CCP is thus managing to wipe out most pro-democracy Human Rights organizations in Hong Kong and the alternative opposition media. Most of them decide on their own initiative to cancel their missions for fear of losing their freedom or exposing their loved ones. 

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