Hong Kong media mogul and activist Jimmy Lai has been denied bail after being charged with foreign collusion, a new offence created this year under the city’s national security law imposed by Beijing.
Prosecutors sought to adjourn the case until April, to allow more time for them to review the main evidence in the case: Lai’s Twitter account, which he used to criticise the Hong Kong and central governments.
If convicted, the 73-year-old entrepreneur, who was led to court in chains, faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.
Lai, who owns pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, has been in custody since last week, when he was denied bail related to fraud charges concerning an alleged leasing violation at his company headquarters.
Long a thorn in Beijing’s side, Lai also spent two days in police custody in August when his company, Next Digital Media, was raided by hundreds of police officers under the sweeping new national security law.
The media tycoon, democratic veteran Jimmy Lai was chained as Class A Felon when he was escorted to appear in court. He faces a charge of collusion with foreign elements to endanger national security because of his tweets and interviews. It’s a speech crime and fabricated charge. pic.twitter.com/5KcTTvBoW4
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) December 12, 2020
Trials under the law are heard by judges hand-picked by the city’s Beijing-backed leader, chief executive Carrie Lam.
The law, which targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, was imposed by Beijing in June, bypassing the city’s elected representatives and forgoing public consultation.
Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat of dissident voices targeted by law enforcement. This week alone, 16 supporters of the democracy movement were arrested.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted the security law “makes a mockery of justice” and called for Lai’s release, saying his only crime is speaking the truth about China’s authoritarian Communist Party government.