A Hong Kong court on Friday sentenced five leading pro-democracy advocates, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai, to up to 18 months in prison for organizing a march during the 2019 anti-government protests that triggered an overwhelming crackdown from Beijing. A total of nine advocates were given jail terms, but four of them, including 82-year-old lawyer and former lawmaker Martin Lee, had their sentences suspended after their age and accomplishments were taken into consideration, the AP reports. They were found guilty earlier this month of organizing and participating in a massive protest in August 2019, where an estimated 1.7 million people marched peacefully in opposition to a bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The march was not authorized by the police.
Their convictions and sentencing are another blow to the city’s flagging democracy movement, which is facing an unprecedented crackdown by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities. Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker who helped organize annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. "I'm ready to face the penalty and sentencing and I’m proud that I can walk with the people of Hong Kong for this democracy," the 64-year-old said ahead of the court session, as supporters held up signs condemning political persecution. "We will walk together even in darkness, we will walk with hope in our hearts."
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