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Asia Minute: Rough Week for Hong Kong Democracy Activists

AP Photo
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, who founded local newspaper Apple Daily, is arrested by police officers at his home in Hong Kong, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020.

It’s been a week of arrests and sentencings for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai publishes the Hong Kong tabloid “Apple Daily” — with a wide circulation and frequent jabs at governments in both Hong Kong and mainland China. Today he’s in jail, arrested with two other senior executives from his media company, charged with fraud, and denied bail.

That means he’ll stay behind bars until his trial in April.

The charges center on an allegedly illegal use of the company’s headquarters building involving a sublease — but critics say the real target is his political criticism.

Earlier this week, three other pro-democracy activists were sentenced to jail time because of an illegal protest outside police headquarters a year and a half ago. That includes one of the best known faces of the movement: 24-year-old Joshua Wong.

Wong was sentenced to a little more than a year in jail for organizing the demonstration against a proposed extradition treaty with mainland China, which was later withdrawn.

23-year-old Agnes Chow got a ten month sentence and 26-year old Ivan Lam got seven months — both for “incitement.”

None of these cases involve the new national security law that was adopted in June, but activists say they reflect a growing sense of intolerance for political opposition.

Last month, four Hong Kong legislators were disqualified for “unpatriotic” opposition — leading to the resignation of the 15 other pro-democracy members of the Legislative Council.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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