Hong Kong: Two detained press freedom defenders, including Jimmy Lai, given new prison sentences

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai and press freedom defender Gwyneth Ho, who were sentenced yesterday to 13 months and 6 months imprisonment, respectively, for taking part in a banned assembly in Hong Kong last year.

Detained since December 2020 and already sentenced in May 2021 to 20 months in prison for attending “unauthorised” pro-democracy protests, Apple Daily founder and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate, Jimmy Lai, was given a 13-month sentence on 13rd December for “inciting others to take part in an unauthorised assembly”. Lai is also facing five other procedures for which he risks up to a life sentence.  

In the same trial, Gwyneth Ho, a former pro-democracy candidate for the Hong Kong Legislative Council and an outspoken press freedom defender, was sentenced to six months in prison for “participating” in a banned assembly. She has already been detained since February 2020 for “conspiracy to commit subversion”, one of the "crimes against the state" outlined in the National Security Law adopted by the Chinese regime last year, for which she faces a life sentence.

Lai and Ho were sentenced over a vigil that took place on 4th June 2020 in commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. 

By sentencing Jimmy Lai and Gwyneth Ho, the Chinese regime once again demonstrates its determination to silence two emblematic press freedom defenders in Hong Kong,” says RSF East Asia bureau head, Cédric Alviani, who calls for both Lai and Ho’s “immediate release alongside the dropping of all their charges, including those for which they face a life sentence”.

In a report titled The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, published on 7 December 2021, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) revealed the system of censorship and information control established by the Chinese regime and the global threat it poses to press freedom and democracy.

Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2020 RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, for its part, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.

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Updated on 14.12.2021