Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday released a statement demanding the immediate released of Hong Kong “pro-democracy media tycoon” Jimmy Lai and six of his c0-defendants journalists. Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence in Hong Kong for his participation in a vigil commemorating victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. A Hong Kong court added almost six additional years to Lai’s sentence on Saturday after Lai was convicted on fraud charges.HRW called for the dropping of charges and release of Lai and 6 co-defendants. The journalists have been charged with “collusion with foreign forces” in accordance with the Chinese National Security Law (NSL) imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020.Maya Wang, associate Asia director of HRW, stated, “Beijing seems intent on imprisoning one of its most powerful critics for many years, possibly for the rest of his life.”Lai has been imprisoned since December 2020. Lai is known for his criticism of the Chinese government and as an advocate for democracy. Lai is also the founder of Apple Daily, a popular Hong Kong newspaper, which has since been effectively shut down and assets frozen.Lai’s six co-defendants are charged with “conspiring” with Lai to “commit collusion with foreign forces.” All six are journalists connected in some way with Lai’s now defunct Apple Daily. All six pleaded guilty to the charges, with some expected to testify in Lai’s trial. The six co-defendants will not receive their sentence until Lai’s trial concludes.The pending trial against Lai is based on alleged National Security Law (NSL) violations. Despite a previous court’s approval, Lai has been denied a British barrister to represent him. Additionally, Lai has not had access to a jury trial, despite the fact that Lai is charged with criminal offenses.
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