Archives for the Date December 12th, 2022

Hong Kong Media Tycoon Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Hong Kong Media Tycoon Sentenced to Five Years in Prison:


(source: new york times | 10 dec 2022)

Jimmy Lai, 75, was sentenced Saturday by Stanley Chan, a judge at the district court, on two counts of fraud for violating the terms of a lease contract related to Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper he founded and which was forced to close last year when the authorities cracked down on it. Wong Wai-keung, director of Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital, was sentenced to 21 months for the same offense.

Mr. Lai’s sentence of five years, nine months — which human rights activists called disproportionately harsh for what amounted to a contractual dispute — was a further sign of the dwindling space for dissent and free expression in Hong Kong. 

Mr. Lai still faces several additional charges, including one under a broad national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing that has cast a pall of fear over the city and resulted in jail terms for several prominent pro-democracy activists.

Mr. Lai was charged in late 2020 for renting offices of Next Digital’s headquarters to his own consultancy firm, Dico Consultants, in violation of the leasing contract. (The lease designated the use of the building for news purposes only.) Pro-democracy activists and experts said the case appeared to involve a minor offense that would normally not result in prison time. Mr. Lai’s consultancy firm had occupied just 0.16 percent of the entire office complex.

But Judge Chan, during the sentencing, called the tiny percentage immaterial to the gravity of the case. He pointed to the intangible benefits of the arrangement, as well as the need for a strong deterrent, as justifications for a heavy sentence.

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