Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been sentenced to 14 months in prison after being found guilty of unauthorised assembly.
Lai was among nine of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy campaigners found guilty of organising and participating in the rally.
Many of them have spent decades advocating non-violence in their ultimately fruitless campaign for universal suffrage.
Lai, 73, was sentenced to 12 months in prison while four other campaigners were jailed for between eight and 18 months.
The billionaire was brought to the court from custody, where he was being held after arrest under Beijing’s new national security law.
It marks the first time that Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy supporters, who has been in jail since December after being denied bail in a separate national security case, was sentenced.
About 100 people queued outside the court early on Friday to get a seat for the hearing.
Organisers say 1.7 million people – almost one quarter of Hong Kong’s population – turned out for a huge rally that formed the backbone of demonstrations that wracked the city throughout 2019.
Among the other defendants were Martin Lee, 82, a respected barrister known as the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, who was once chosen by Beijing to help write the city’s mini-constitution.
Responding to the sentencing, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said that the court decision “underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city.”
“These convictions are a violation of international law, which states that participating in and organizing peaceful assemblies does not require prior permission by the state. The prosecution’s case against these activists is simply not tenable.”