Court hears mitigation ahead of June 4 sentencing

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai said on Monday that he was willing to suffer the punishment if remembering June 4 was a crime, hours before he was expected to be sentenced over a banned vigil in Victoria Park last year.

Lai and activists Chow Hang-tung and Gwyneth Ho were last week found guilty of inciting people to join the vigil or taking part in it themselves.

In mitigation, Lai’s lawyer, Robert Pang, argued that his client did not join the vigil that night, but only lit a candle in front of reporters and stayed in the park for 14 minutes.

Pang added that the case did not involve a protest, but a remembrance event, the likes of which had been held for 30 years.

Pang said Lai’s background is the epitome of a Hong Kong success story. Instead of making more money, Lai went on to devote himself to his media business which brought to light “what certain others would prefer kept hidden in the darkness.”

The lawyer also read out Lai’s own mitigation plea.

“If commemorating those who died because of injustice is a crime, then inflict on me that crime and let me suffer the punishment of that crime,” Lai had written.

Chow, meanwhile, said this case was about more than just herself.

“In designating the vigil as criminal, a proud tradition stands condemned, signifying to the world that this city is no longer the heaven for free speech it once was,” she said.

Ho said her sentence would be a sentence for every Hongkonger who went to Victoria Park on June 4 last year.

Judge Amanda Woodcock was expected to hand down the trio’s sentences on Monday afternoon, together with those of five others involved in the case who earlier pleaded guilty.