Updated: April 19, 2021 04:52 AM GMT
Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai was jailed for 14 months on April 16 over one of Hong Kong's biggest-ever pro-democracy protests in 2019. (Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP)
Catholic media tycoon and philanthropist Jimmy Lai has been jailed for 14 months in Hong Kong after being found guilty of unauthorized assembly.
He was among nine activists in court on April 16 who were earlier found guilty of charges relating to pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory in 2019.
Lai, 72, has donated millions of dollars to Catholic causes and has been retired Cardinal Joseph Zen’s biggest financial backer.
He made his fortune through mid-market fashion chain Giordano before putting his wealth into media companies Next Media and the city’s leading anti-Beijing newspaper Apple Daily.
Lai’s jailing comes as the Chinese Communist Party intensifies its crackdown on Hong Kong's rights and freedoms.
Earlier this week, Apple Daily published a handwritten letter by Lai, sent from prison, which read: "It is our responsibility as journalists to seek justice. As long as we are not blinded by unjust temptations, as long as we do not let evil get its way through us, we are fulfilling our responsibility."
If this is the payback time, this is my redemption
Speaking to the BBC before the hearing, Lai said that even if he were to be imprisoned, he would still be "living my life meaningfully."
"I came here with one dollar. I got everything I have because of this place. If this is the payback time, this is my redemption," he said.
Lai, who was born in mainland China but smuggled into Hong Kong as a child, faced eight charges in court, two of which were imposed under the new national security law and can carry a maximum term of life in prison.
The law, implemented in Hong Kong by China last year, criminalizes secession and subversion. Earlier this month, Beijing overhauled the territory's electoral rules to ensure more loyalty to the mainland.
About 200 police raided the office of Apple Daily last August and handcuffed Lai under the security law’s provision of “foreign collusion” along with two of his sons and two executives of Next Media. He was also charged with fraud.