Hong Kong starts trial of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai

Professional-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai stands accused of ‘collusion’ with overseas forces beneath a sweeping nationwide safety legislation that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 (Anthony WALLACE)

Professional-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai is about to face trial Monday in Hong Kong, the place he faces internationally condemned nationwide safety prices that would ship him to jail for all times.

Lai, 76, based the now-shuttered Chinese language-language tabloid Apple Every day, which regularly bashed Beijing and supported the large protest motion that roiled Hong Kong in 2019.

He stands accused of “collusion” with overseas forces beneath a sweeping nationwide safety legislation that Beijing imposed on the finance hub in 2020.

The trial — scheduled to be heard in open court docket over the following 80 working days — will probably be intently watched as a barometer for the town’s political freedoms and judicial independence.

A rags-to-riches millionaire who made his fortune promoting garments earlier than increasing into media, Lai will probably be tried with no jury and has been denied the lawyer of his selection.

America, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations have all expressed considerations about Lai’s case, however Beijing has dismissed them as smears and interference.

British International Secretary David Cameron met final week with Lai’s son Sebastien and later issued a press release saying the UK “will proceed to face with Jimmy Lai”, who’s a British citizen.

“Lord Cameron stated that (the case) was a precedence and that he had talked about it along with his counterpart Wang Yi,” Sebastien advised AFP on Saturday, referring to China’s prime diplomat.

Sebastien stated he was “heartbroken” to see latest press pictures of his father in a jail yard, which confirmed him “older, skinnier”.

“I am beneath no phantasm that Hong Kong has an impartial judiciary system anymore,” he added.

– ‘Travesty of justice’ –

Dozens of activists have been charged beneath the 2020 nationwide safety legislation, however Lai is the primary to contest a overseas “collusion” cost.

Imprisoned for greater than 1,100 days, Lai has already been convicted in 5 different circumstances, together with for organising and collaborating in marches throughout the 2019 democracy protests.

Apple Every day was compelled to shut in 2021 after authorities used the safety legislation to raid it twice and freeze belongings value HK$18 million (US$2.3 million).

The Committee to Defend Journalists stated in a press release on Friday that the trial was “a travesty of justice” and a “darkish stain on Hong Kong’s rule of legislation”.

The US State Division urged Lai’s launch in a press release.

“Actions that stifle press freedom and prohibit the free move of data… have undermined Hong Kong’s democratic establishments and harmed Hong Kong’s status as a world enterprise and monetary hub,” stated spokesman Matthew Miller.

Critics of the nationwide safety legislation say it has curtailed civil liberties, successfully silenced dissent, and eroded the judicial independence that has lengthy attracted overseas companies to the monetary hub.

Hong Kong authorities stated forward of the court docket proceedings that they’d step up safety across the West Kowloon Regulation Courts Constructing.

“If anybody tries to disrupt the trial or intimidate these concerned within the authorized course of, we is not going to hesitate to take instant motion,” the town’s safety chief Chris Tang stated on Friday.

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