søndag 18. april 2021

Opinion: China’s crackdown in Hong Kong has reached a new level of viciousness

They were the founders of the Hong Kong democracy movement — lawyers and activists who fought for political rights even before Britain handed its former colony over to China a quarter-century ago. On Friday, nine of them — now mostly in their 60s and 70s — were hauled into a courtroom and sentenced to prison terms. Not content with jailing or forcing into exile most of the younger leaders of the opposition, the regime of Xi Jinping felt compelled to crush its historic stewards — an act of sheer vindictiveness that brought the crackdown on Hong Kong to a new low.

Among those sentenced was 82-year-old Martin Lee, sometimes called “the father” of Hong Kong democracy, who in decades of peaceful and impeccably civil activism had never been criminally convicted. A judge suspended his sentence in light of his age and record, along with those of Margaret Ng, 73, and Albert Ho, 69. But there was no leniency for 73-year-old Jimmy Lai, the founder of Hong Kong’s most independent and feisty newspaper, Apple Daily. Mr. Lai, who has been jailed since December, was sentenced to 14 months and, with several other cases pending, could spend the rest of his life in prison. He is reviled in Beijing in particular because of his visits to Washington to promote the cause of Hong Kong democracy; in the regime’s propaganda, he and Mr. Lee are regularly assailed for supposedly conspiring with “Western forces.”