Lai was sentenced along with nine other pro-democracy activists.
They were charged with incitement to take part in an unauthorised assembly when they walked down a road with thousands of residents on 1 October 2019 to protest against dwindling political freedoms in Hong Kong.
All 10 pleaded guilty to organising an unauthorised assembly. Lai, 73, is already in prison serving a separate 14-month term for convictions in other cases and now with both of them combined he will serve a total of 20 months behind bars.
His time in prison may extend further as authorities are investigating charging him colluding with foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong affairs.
The media tycoon had even met the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to seek support for Hong Kong’s democracy movement following which Beijing had called him a “traitor”.
Former lawmakers Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, and Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and ex-lawmaker who helped organise annual candlelight vigils in Hong Kong to commemorate the bloody crackdown in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, were given prison terms of 18 months each.
Figo Chan, who is the head of a political organisation known for organising protest rallies in the city, was given a prison term of 18 months while three activists — Yeung Sum, Cyd Ho and Avery Ng — were sentenced to 14-month in prison. But two others, Richard Tsoi and Sin Chung-kai, had their jail terms suspended.
Hong Kong has also banned the 4 June candlelight vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown for the second year in a row citing social distancing restrictions while warning people against taking part in any unauthorised assembly.
In 1997, Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China on the promise that its relative autonomy would be maintained. But over the past few years, Beijing has taken a series of actions that eroded it including introducing a strict national security law despite severe protest from the international community.
Since then, most of the pro-democracy leaders and activists have either been arrested or imprisoned or fled from the city.
On Thursday, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken had said that the Chinese government continues to undermine the democratic institutions of Hong Kong, denying residents the rights that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself has guaranteed.
He had asked the authorities to “release and drop charges against all individuals charged under the National Security Law and other laws merely for standing for election or for expressing dissenting views”.
Additional reporting by agencies