Hong Kong pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai is released on £1million bail after he was charged under Beijing’s new security law
- Hong Kong’s highest court has revoked media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s bail
- Lai charged with colluding with foreign force and endangering national security
- He is the most high-profile out of more than two dozen charged under a new law
- Lai, an outspoken critic of Beijing and founder of Apple Daily, arrested in August
Hong Kong’s highest court has revoked media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s bail after prosecutors succeeded in asking the judges to send him back to detention.
Lai had been granted bail on December 23 after three weeks in custody on charges of fraud and endangering national security. His appeal hearing is slated for February 1.
The court said Thursday that it was ‘reasonably arguable’ that the previous judge’s decision was erroneous and that the order of granting bail was invalid.
Lai is among a string of pro-democracy activists and supporters arrested by Hong Kong police in recent months as authorities step up their crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Hong Kong’s highest court has revoked media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s bail after prosecutors succeeded in asking the judges to send him back to detention. Above, Lai pictured on December 31
A supporter of media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, holds signs as his prison van leaves the Court of Final Appeal, in Hong Kong, China on December 31
He was charged with fraud on Dec. 3 for allegedly violating the lease terms for office space for the Next Digital, the media company he founded. He was later 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 entered the Court of Final Appeal without making any comments to supporters and media, many of whom swarmed the tycoon as he made his way into the courtroom. His bail conditions included surrendering his travel documents and a ban on meeting with foreign officials, publishing articles on any media, posting on social media and giving interviews.
Chinese state-owned newspaper People’s Daily posted a strongly worded commentary on Sunday criticizing the court for granting bail to Lai, stating that it ‘severely hurt Hong Kong’s rule of law.’
The People’s Daily said that it would not be difficult for Lai to abscond, and called him ‘notorious and extremely dangerous.’ It also warned that China could take over the case, according to Article 55 of the national security law which states that China can ‘exercise jurisdiction over a case concerning offence endangering national security.’
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrives at the Kowloon City police station as he reports himself to the police, three times a week, as part of his court bail condition in Hong Kong, China, on December 28
Hong Kong’s judiciary on Tuesday uploaded a 19-page judgment on its website, laying out the reasons why High Court Judge Justice Alex Lee had granted Lai bail. Lee said that he was satisfied that there was no flight risk in Lai’s case, and noted that Lai was willing to have his movements monitored if it had been a feasible option.
On Tuesday, Lai resigned as chairman and executive director of Next Digital, which runs the Apple Daily newspaper, according to a filing made to the Hong Kong stock exchange. He did so ‘to spend more time dealing with this personal affairs’ and confirmed that he had no disagreement with the board of directors, the filing said.
Hong Kong newspaper owner and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai was released on bail on December 23 after being charged under the city’s new national security law.
Lai, who founded Apple Daily tabloid, was freed on a £960,000 bond after being charged with colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security.
The 73-year-old is one of the financial hub’s most ardent Beijing critics, while his Next Media group – the firm that operates Apple Daily – is considered one of the key remaining bastions of media freedom.
He was arrested in August when about 200 police officers raided the newsroom of Apple Daily.
Jimmy Lai, the owner of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper and a Beijing critic, was previously released on £1million bail (pictured) after being charged under new security laws
Lai, who has been in custody since December 3, is also charged with fraud related to the lease of a building that houses the tabloid.
He is the most high-profile person out of more than two dozen charged under the sweeping security law since it was imposed by Beijing in June.
Beijing imposed the national security law in response to protests in Hong Kong that began in June 2019 over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for greater democracy in the former British colony.
The legislation outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces to intervene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
In certain cases, those charged under the national security law could also face trial in mainland China, where the legal system is highly opaque.
He is the most high-profile person out of more than two dozen charged under the sweeping law since it was imposed by Beijing in June. Pictured: On Friday
The security law has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous, Chinese-ruled city.
The broad legislation prompted more public protests and led to complaints that Beijing is violating the autonomy promised to Hong Kong when was handed over to China from Britain in 1997.
Apple Daily criticised the law on its front page on July 1, calling it the ‘final nail in the coffin’ of the territory’s autonomy.
Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing say the law is necessary to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the global financial hub last year.
Beijing says stability and order has been restored and has dismissed the huge crowds that protested as a foreign plot to destabilise China. Pictured: Pro-democracy activists at a rally in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 12 as they marked the one-year anniversary of major clashes between police and pro-democracy demonstrators
Under the new law, the onus is on the defendant to prove they would not be a national security threat if released on bail.
Under Hong Kong’s common law-based legal system the onus has traditionally been on the prosecution to prove its case.
Under his bail terms, Lai is not allowed to meet with foreign officials, give any interviews, publish any articles or post on social media, and will have to remain at home and surrender his travel documents.
Lai has advocated for other countries to take a harsher stance on China. Last year he traveled to the US to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a ‘traitor’.
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