Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, 2 others found guilty over Tiananmen vigil in 2020

PHOTO: Reuters

Jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and two co-defendants have been found guilty on unauthorised assembly charges stemming from last year's ­banned Tiananmen Square vigil.

Thursday's ruling at the District Court means that all 24 opposition activists and former politicians who faced trial over the annual candlelight event, which police banned for the first time in 30 years, have been convicted of charges related to an illegal public gathering.

Lai, founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, had denied inciting others to take part in the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4, organised by the since-dissolved Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to commemorate the 1989 crackdown.

Barrister Chow Hang-tung, formerly a vice-chairwoman of the alliance, had pleaded not guilty to incitement and participation, while activist Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam faced only the latter charge.

At trial, prosecutors argued that the strong public desire to continue holding the annual vigil could not supersede the need to protect the community from the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which the police force had cited in denying permission for the gathering.

Lai's counsel submitted that the tycoon's prosecution was a disproportionate restriction on his freedom of assembly, noting he had only gone to Victoria Park to support the alliance rather than encouraging the general public to flout the ban as accused.

Read Also
Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai among 3 pleading guilty to illegal assembly
Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai among 3 pleading guilty to illegal assembly

Chow and Ho both maintained that they had visited the park for personal reasons and denied assembling with others for a common purpose.

Twenty-one opposition figures previously pleaded guilty to unauthorised assembly charges in relation to their involvement in last year's event.

Thirteen were jailed for up to 10 months, while three others were given suspended sentences. The rest will be sentenced on Monday.

A lower court has also ordered the arrest of fugitive former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and activist Sunny Cheung Kwan-yang in relation to the vigil.

Both left Hong Kong before they were expected to appear in court in September last year to answer to participation charges.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.