In Hong Kong, a pro-democracy media tycoon was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison on Saturday after being found guilty of two fraud charges related to lease violations. This case is the most recent in a string of high-profile cases against activists that some claim aim to silence the city’s dissidents.
Jimmy Lai, who was arrested as part of a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement after significant protests in 2019, was also fined 2 million Hong Kong dollars under the National Security Law enforced by Beijing (USD 257,000).
The pro-democracy journal Apple Daily was published by his media company, Next Digital, until it was shut down.
Following the arrests of its top executives, editors, and journalists last year, the publication was forced to shut down.
For subletting a portion of the office space to a secretarial business he also owned and controlled between 2016 and 2020, Lai was found guilty of fraud in October.
The second fraud charge was for allegedly violating lease agreements from 1998 to 2015 by allowing the same company to utilise the media outlet’s office space.
The court at the time determined that Lai had concealed the fact that the business was renting space in the building and that the actions had breached the lease agreements with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp.
Lai may spend up to life in jail if found guilty.
In the semi-autonomous Chinese city, the security law’s implementation resulted in the arrests of numerous well-known democratic campaigners. In 1997, Hong Kong, a former British colony, was once again under Chinese control.
Additionally, it has diminished confidence in the future of the global financial centre as more and more young professionals relocate outside in response to the declining freedoms.