Hong Kong’s Highest Court Revokes Bail for Media Tycoon and Pro-Democracy Activist

Photo of Lai as he was heading to court, 2 December 2020
Photo of Lai as he was heading to court, 2 December 2020 (VOA)

Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai is heading back to detention after the city’s highest court revoked his bail Thursday.

The 73-year-old Lai was arrested on December 3 and spent three weeks behind bars before posting a $1.2 million bond just last week. The High Court banned him from using Twitter, granting interviews or colluding with foreign forces in its ruling.

But judges with the city’s Court of Final Appeal agreed with prosecutors’ argument that the lower court’s decision to grant Lai bail was erroneous.

The Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily criticized Lai’s bail in an editorial published Sunday, claiming the decision damaged Hong Kong’s “rule of law.”

The owner of Next Digital media company was initially charged with fraud, with prosecutors accusing him of violating terms of the company’s lease of its office space. Lai has since been charged under Hong Kong’s new national security law for “foreign collusion.”

Lai was first arrested under the new law on suspicion of foreign collusion in August. Hours after his arrest, more than 100 police officers raided the headquarters of Next Digital, which publishes the newspaper Apple Day. The newspaper livestreamed the raid on its website, showing officers roaming the newsroom as they rummaged through reporters’ files, while Lai was led through the newsroom in handcuffs.

Lai was eventually released on bail after 40 hours in custody.

Lai is already in legal jeopardy for his pro-democracy activism. He was one of 15 activists arrested earlier this year and hit with seven charges, including organizing and participating in unauthorized assemblies and inciting others to take part in an unauthorized assembly.

He is one of the highest-profile Hong Kongers targeted by the new security law since it went into effect in July. Under the law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.

The new law was imposed by Beijing in response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the last half of last year, and is the cornerstone of its increasing grip on the city, which was granted an unusual amount of freedom when Britain handed over control in 1997.


Source: VOA