Jimmy Lai, media mogul and opponent of the Chinese Communist Party, has been sentenced to 69 months in prison after an extensive trial period.
Lai was sentenced on two counts of fraud related to leases for the offices of his newspaper, Apple Daily.
In addition to the prison sentence, Lai was ordered to pay a fine of approximately U.S. $256,837.
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Lai, 75, was charged with fraud on Dec. 3 of 2019 for allegedly violating the lease terms for office space for the Next Digital, the media company he founded.
He was charged again on Dec. 12 under the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing, on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security.
Lai has yet to face the charges leveled against him under the national security law.
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Critics at home and abroad say the law amounts to a crackdown on political dissent and free speech that is eroding the rights and freedoms promised to Hong Kong under the “one country, two systems” framework following the handover from British colonial rule in 1997.
Lai is among a string of pro-democracy activists and supporters arrested by Hong Kong police in recent years as authorities step up their crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Tensions between the CCP and its critics have only risen since Lai’s original arrest.
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Chinese citizens feel empowered after protests against “draconian COVID-19 restrictions” led Chinese authorities to ease regulations, a human rights researcher told Fox News.
“People are fed up with the restrictions,” said Yaqiu Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “There’s so much pent-up anger and frustration, because there have been massive human rights violations as a result of the restrictions, not because of COVID itself.”
Demonstrations erupted across several cities in China in the final days of November as residents took to the streets to protest the nation’s “zero-COVID” policies. In some cities, like Wuhan, protests turned violent as police and residents clashed.
Fox News’ Jon Michael Raasch and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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