Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong publisher and pro-democracy activist, was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison on Saturday after he was found guilty in October of fraud over a breach of contract relating to a 1990s lease.
Lai is 75 years old and is the founder of the tabloid Apple Daily, which used to be Hong Kong’s most widely read newspaper until it was shut down by the authorities about a year and a half ago. It remained the last Hong Kong newspaper to openly criticize the city government and the Chinese regime and was forced to close down through a series of acts of repression which led to the arrest of Lai, the managing editor and part of the management, as well as blocking all economic funds available to the newspaper.
Lai has recently finished serving a 20-month prison sentence for various convictions due to his participation in unauthorized pro-democracy protests. He also risks being sentenced to life in prison on charges of violating Hong Kong’s controversial “national security” law, the 2020 law that gave China greater control over the city.
In addition to the prison sentence, Lai was sentenced to pay a fine of the equivalent of 244 thousand euros and will not be able to run companies for eight years. Before the conviction, Lai’s lawyers had repeatedly said that the trial should have taken place in a civil court for the request for any damages and not in a criminal one for fraud, as it was instead.