BEIJING – Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and politicians have been sentenced to up to three years' prison time for organizing a demonstration in October 2019.
The round of sentences is the latest in a series of roundups among Hong Kong's beleaguered political opposition for their part in broader anti-government demonstrations against Beijing's rule rocked the region throughout 2019.
Former lawmakers Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Leung Kwok-hung were each given two consecutive 18-month sentences by judge Amanda Woodcock for organizing and attending the protest, which fell on China's national day October 1.
Six others — including media tycoon and textile billionaire Jimmy Lai — were given lesser sentences of 14 months for helping organize the protest.
Woodcock then denied bail for another former lawmaker and activist, Claudio Mo, who is facing a separate charge of violating a national security law. Among the evidence cited the judge were interviews Mo continued to take with reporters at the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times after she was charged with subversion alongside 46 other activists. All of them had tried to organize an informal primary poll in the run-up to legislative elections, before they were postponed.
Thursday's sentencings are part of an extensive cleanup of political agitators, lawyers, politicians and businessmen who took part in regionwide protests demanding democratic reforms in 2019.
More than 10,000 protestors were arrested during those demonstrations, which stopped entirely last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Harsh legal measures later were adopted by Hong Kong to deter political dissent.
Among those measures is a national security law passed by Beijing that created broadly defined crimes of subversion of state power, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, and assigns punishments of up to life in prison. The law has spurred dozens of Hong Kong protestors to seek political asylum outside China.
Beijing also approved electoral changes that dramatically overhaul how Hong Kong's legislators and chief executive are chosen in a way that gives pro-Beijing parties a boost.
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