Former Hong Kong law professor and opposition activist Benny Tai Yiu-ting has been sentenced to 10 months’ jail for illegally incurring election expenses through newspaper advertisements to promote a tactical voting scheme ahead of the 2016 Legislative Council poll. The judge said Tai’s action influenced fairness of the election and warranted immediate imprisonment, but reduced his sentence from 18 months after considering unreasonable delays in prosecution. Tai, 57, appeared peaceful when he received his sentence in the District Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty last month to four counts of the charge in connection with the “ThunderGo” strategy that was aimed at maximising the chances of opposition hopefuls in the election. Hong Kong activist Benny Tai pleads guilty to illegally incurring election expenses Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on noted the defence’s position that Tai had proposed tactical voting only to reflect the support received by the opposition camp, but he said Tai’s action had caused unfairness to both pro-establishment and independent candidates. “The defendant may have acted based on his views on democracy and justice, but no matter how noble his idea is, he can only strive to achieve them through legal means. He cannot use it as an excuse to break the law,” Kwok said. He also said Tai, as a veteran legal scholar, had not mentioned whether he had taken any steps to ensure the plan was in line with the law or if he was misled by wrong legal advice. Tai “could not escape censure” and carelessness was not mitigation, he said. Hong Kong separatist or fighter for democracy: who is Benny Tai? However, he noted that the expenses were announced clearly while Tai had not directly recommended any candidate and had no personal gains from the plan. The judge did not accept the prosecution’s explanation in going after Tai five years after the election, saying the delay was “unreasonable from any perspective”. He also found it unacceptable it had taken two years to verify evidence and obtain legal advice. Kwok reduced the jail sentence from 18 months to 10, considering the admission of guilt and the delay in prosecution. Under the charges, Tai, along with two other defendants, psychologist Ip Kim-ching, 56, and company director Sek Sau-ching, 51, were accused of incurring election expenses totalling HK$253,540 by placing six adverts in Ming Pao Daily News and the now-defunct Apple Daily on three days in August and September 2016 to advocate tactical voting among supporters of the opposition camp. The plan was to analyse the preferences of 200,000 among the electorate after they had cast their ballots on September 4, 2016, before mobilising 50,000 “strategic voters” towards the end of the poll to select “borderline” contenders in lieu of those who had very high or very little chances of winning. The court heard the scheme had endorsed 22 out of a total of 93 lists of candidates for 40 seats. The other two defendants were discharged earlier on a bind-over order for a year. Benny Tai election case shifts to Hong Kong court with tougher sentencing Tai was a co-founder of Occupy Central, a civil disobedience movement for greater democracy, which brought parts of the city to a standstill for 79 days in 2014. He was a law professor at the University of Hong Kong until he was sacked in 2020 over his criminal conviction for his role in the Occupy movement. Tai served 16 months in jail. He has been remanded in custody since March last year over a national security case involving him and 46 other opposition politicians and activists. They were charged with conspiracy to commit subversion for their roles in an unofficial primary election of the legislature in July 2020.