Christian media mogul jailed again for Hong Kong protests against China's actions

(Image by Studio Incendo via Wikimedia Commons)Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protest, August 18, 2019.

A court in Hong Kong has sentenced Catholic media mogul and pro-free expression activist Jimmy Lai to a second jail term, this one for14 months, for participating in an unauthorized assembly in 2019.

The 73-year-old Lai, was among 10 pro-democracy politicians and activists also sentenced on May 28 on similar charges, ucanews reported.

Lai who has criticized China's policies in Hong Kong was given the new prison sentence over his role in an unauthorized assembly on Oct. 1, 2019, during one of the city's pro-democracy rallies that year, said Reuters.

He has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security trial.

Lai faced three charges under the new law, introduced by China in 2020 in response to the protests, including collusion with a foreign country.

"Lai is one of the most prominent supporters of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement," said the BBC.

With estimated wealth of US$1 billion from clothing and media ventures, Lai is one of the most prominent faces of the pro-democracy movement in the former British colony, according to UCA.

His company, Next Digital, publishes Apple Daily, a popular newspaper with a pro-democracy tilt and critical of Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leadership under Chief Executive Carrie Lam and the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

Apple Daily is viewed among the last exponents of the free press in the Chinese-ruled territory that UCA said faces one of the most difficult periods in its political history since the British 1997 handover.

Lai has been already serving a sentence in prison and faces two charges of subversive and seditious acts, which can carry life imprisonment if convicted under Hong Kong's draconian national security law.

"If they can induce fear in you, that's the cheapest way to control you and the most effective way and they know it. The only way to defeat the way of intimidation is to face up to fear and don't let it frighten you," Lai told BBC News.

Earlier in May, Hong Kong authorities sent threatening letters to Lai and branches of banking groups HSBC and Citibank, warning them of seven-year jail sentences for any dealings with the billionaire's accounts in the city.

Hong Kong's Security Secretary John Lee signed the letters and announced earlier that he had frozen assets of Lai including his bank accounts and his stake of 71.26 percent in Next Digital, which is estimated to be worth $45 million.

"I am exercising the power because Lai has been charged with two offenses of collusion with other countries or external forces to endanger national security," Lee told journalists on May 27.

"It is my duty to specify in my notice to the relevant parties what will be the consequences if they fail to comply with my direction."

Critics charge that by attempting to crush Lai and Apple Daily, Beijing is attempting to crush the once-vibrant and independent media industry in the city altogether.

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