Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai denied bail due to risk of 'committing further offences'

WION Web Team
Hong Kong Published: Feb 23, 2021, 03.44 PM(IST)

FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Apple Daily Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Lai is already in custody, having been charged in December under a national security law Beijing imposed on the city last year

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai the most high-profile person charged under a new national security law was denied bail due to the risk of his committing further offences.

Hong Kong High Court Judge Anthea Pang rejected Lai's latest application last week but only made public the reasons for her decision on Tuesday.

The case is being closely watched as it shows how Hong Kong's independent judiciary resolves any conflicts between the security law drafted in Beijing, where courts come under the Communist Party and the city's common law traditions.

Apple Daily, which is owned by Lai, reported that the 73-year-old was arrested inside Stanley Prison on Tuesday.

Lai is already in custody, having been charged in December under a national security law Beijing imposed on the city last year. 

The new law puts the onus 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.

Beijing imposed the national security law on the former British colony last June after months of pro-democracy protests. The law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Critics say it is aimed at crushing dissent and it erodes freedoms in the semi-autonomous financial hub. Its supporters say it restores stability after months of unrest.

Prosecutors have accused Lai of breaching the law over statements he made on July 30 and Aug. 18, in which they allege he requested foreign interference in Hong Kong's affairs.

Lai has been a frequent visitor to Washington, meeting with officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a "traitor".

He is also among a group of nine leading dissidents currently on trial for organising one of the huge pro-democracy rallies that swept Hong Kong in 2019.

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