Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai (黎智英), former lawmaker Albert Ho (何俊仁) and eight others yesterday pleaded guilty to organizing a 2019 protest that highlighted local opposition to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the 70th anniversary of its rule in Beijing.
Lai, Ho and the rest entered pleas related to an unauthorized assembly to mark National Day on Oct. 1, 2019. The anniversary saw protests erupt across Hong Kong, with many starting out peaceful and turning violent as demonstrations dragged on and police cracked down.
Lai — the founder of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper — pleaded guilty to organizing one protest, while pleading not guilty to taking part in it.
Ho — a former Democratic Party chief and candidate for Hong Kong chief executive — pleaded guilty to organizing, announcing and inciting others to take part in a demonstration.
The defendants are expected to be sentenced on Friday next week.
Lai is facing a flurry of other criminal cases, including charges under a National Security Law that China imposed last year in response to a wave of unrest in the former British colony.
He was sentenced last month to 14 months in prison over two separate unauthorized protests in August 2019.
Hong Kong authorities on Friday last week froze some of the media tycoon’s assets, citing the security law.
Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee (李家超) issued notices to freeze all shares of his Next Digital Ltd, as well as the local bank accounts of three companies owned by him, the government said in a statement.
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange yesterday suspended the trading of Next Digital shares.
The move marks the first time local authorities have used the security law to freeze the shares of a major investor in a listed company, a step that could spook investors in the financial center.
State-run broadcaster China Central Television said in a commentary on Sunday that “doomsday is getting closer and closer” for Next Digital and Apple Daily.
“The end is finally here after this ‘rotten apple’ plagued Hong Kong for 20 years,” the commentary said. “It can no longer hide under the umbrella of ‘press freedom’ and do dirty tricks like incitement and brainwashing.”
Lee later yesterday sidestepped questions about the value of assets seized or whether the Apple Daily would be shut down, saying the action had “no direct link to journalistic work.”
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