Jailed Hong Kong activist Kong Jimmy Lai to go on trial under national security law today

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Public TV English
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HONG KONG: Jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, known for his support of the pro-democracy movement and criticism of China, will go on trial on Monday on three counts of “colluding with foreign forces” under sweeping national security law, CNN reported.

Notably, Lai turned 76 behind bars in a maximum-security prison earlier this month.

Lai has long been an “unapologetically pugilistic thorn” in Beijing and now faces his most consequential legal challenge to date, according to CNN.

He has been in detention since 2020 and jailed for multiple charges linked to Hong Kong’s democracy protest movement and his media business as the founder of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy, anti-Beijing newspaper that was forced to shut down in 2021.

According to the indictment, Lai faces three counts of colluding with foreign forces, a crime under a sweeping national security law that has transformed Hong Kong, as well as a separate sedition charge. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted, CNN reported.

The United States has also condemned the trial of Lai and called on Hong Kong authorities to “immediately release” the media tycoon.

“The United States condemns the prosecution of pro-democracy advocate and media owner Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong under the PRC-imposed National Security Law. Lai has been held in pre-trial detention for more than 1,000 days, and Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have denied him his choice of legal representation,” US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller said in a statement.

US has also urged Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to respect press freedom in Hong Kong.

“We call on Hong Kong authorities to immediately release Jimmy Lai and all others imprisoned for defending their rights,” the statement added.
Notably, the trial, which is expected to last at least 80 days, is the most high-profile prosecution of a Hong Kong media figure since the city was handed over from British to Chinese control in 1997. This could also set new precedents for Hong Kong’s rapidly changing legal landscape.

Since huge and at times violent democracy protests swept through Hong Kong in 2019, dozens of the city’s most prominent democracy activists have been jailed or have fled overseas.

In this case, prosecutors allege that articles published by Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper violated Hong Kong’s national security law by “calling for overseas sanctions” against the city’s leaders. Lai has pleaded not guilty.

Beijing imposed the national security law in the wake of the 2019 protests, arguing it has “restored stability” and closed loopholes that allowed “foreign forces” to undermine China, CNN reported.

The critics have said that it has decimated Hong Kong’s freedoms and transformed the city’s legal landscape.

Also, like all the national security cases so far, the high-profile trial will not have a jury. It will be presided over by three national security judges from a committee that is approved by Hong Kong’s leader.

Hong Kong’s government has also blocked Lai from being represented by a British lawyer, a decision that is undergoing a separate legal challenge and has repeatedly delayed this trial’s start date.

Once one of the city’s most outspoken figures, little has been heard from Lai since his multiple prosecutions began.

“I think psychologically he’s very strong,” his son, Sebastien Lai, recently told CNN in London. “But there is always that element that nobody escapes the gravity of age, and at his age, he is at a tremendous amount of risk being in maximum security.” (ANI)

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