Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 73, was handed an eight month prison sentence on Friday for participating in an unauthorised assembly on August 31, 2019, whilst 64-year-old Labour Party vice-chair Lee Cheuk-yan received six months behind bars.

Ex-Democratic Party chair Yeung Sum, 73, was given eight months in prison, suspended for a year, by Judge Amanda Woodcock at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts.

Jimmy lai, lee cheuk yan, yeung sum
From left to right: Lee Cheuk-yan, Jimmy Lai, Yeung Sum. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Woodcock said only immediate imprisonment was appropriate, adding that she either reduced the jail term or opted for a suspended sentence due to factors such as a defendant’s “positive, good character,” age and health condition.

The trio pleaded guilty last Wednesday to knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly in violation of Article 13 of the Public Order Ordinance on August 31, 2019 during a “prayer walk for sinners” march.

democrats court
Supporters outside court. Photo: Kelly Ho.

Thousands participated in the demonstration reiterating their demand for democracy despite the organiser cancelling the protest after the police refused to give permission. Started in Causeway Bay, the march turned into chaotic scenes as the police deployed the water cannon in Admiralty near government headquarters.

august 31 china extradition
August 31, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

In delivering her sentence, Woodcock said that, based on experience, “emotions are likely to run high” at such protests. She said that the defendants “made a conscious decision” to take part the unauthorised assembly and ignored police warnings.

Their actions were “deliberately provocative” and the offences were committed “intentionally,” she ruled. “[B]ecause of who they are, [they] may have encouraged others to participate.”

‘Hong Kong people will get through this’

The 2019 gathering was billed as a religious gathering which, under the Public Order Ordinance, does not require a letter of no objection from the police as long as there are fewer than 30 participants.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
Yeung Sum outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on April 16, 2021 ahead of his sentencing for participating in an unauthorised assembly on August 31, 2019. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Ahead of the court hearing, Lee told the press that “the situation now is very dark, but I believe that Hong Kong people will get through this together.”

Both Lai and Lee received a sentence of 12-months imprisonment for another case on Friday, where they were convicted of organising and knowingly participating in another unauthorised protest on August 18, 2019.

Lai was also in court for a third case on Friday, where he was charged under the national security law for allegedly colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security. He has also been accused of committing fraud by violating land-lease terms.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.