Jimmy Lai to stay in jail as latest bail bid rejected

He will have to await trial for threats to national security in custody. Judge Pang: If released he could repeat the offense. Also indicted for helping 12 democratic activists escape, later arrested and sentenced in Shenzhen. Already on trial for his role in the anti-extradition movement.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong’s High Court today rejected Jimmy Lai's lawyers latest request for release on bail. The democracy activist and media tycoon will have to wait in prison for his trial for having threatened national security, which opens on April 16. The charge is of "collusion" with foreign forces, a crime provided for by the national security law imposed by the Chinese leadership.

He was jailed in early December; on 9 February the Final Court of Appeal invalidated his release, decided on 23 December by the High Court, which had granted him release on bail under house arrest. At the request of the Justice Department, an Intermediate Court suspended his release on December 31, ordering his return to Stanley maximum security prison. Also indicted for corruption, he faces life imprisonment.

In reading the sentence, Judge Anthea Pang said she did not have sufficient reason to believe that the accused " "will not continue to commit acts that endanger national security".

She confirmed the line of appeals judges, according to which the High Court had misinterpreted the draconian law on security in the first bail request hearing. This provision, argued the Court of Appeal, imposes stricter thresholds for bail, with the burden of proof being on the defence and not the prosecution: an exception to general principles such as the presumption of innocence, included in the Basic Law (the city's mini-Constitution) and in the International Charter on Civil and Political Rights.

On February 16, the authorities notified Lai of a new detention. He is accused of helping Andy Li, one of 12 anti-government activists who tried to flee to Taiwan in the summer. Arrested by the Shenzhen police, 10 were tried and sentenced to terms ranging from 10 months to three years in prison; two minors have been returned to Hong Kong and await trial.

The crime attributed to Lai falls within those punished by the security law imposed by Beijing. His support for Li also configures the charge of conspiring with foreign forces.

The 73-year-old owner of the Apple Daily newspaper – highly critical of the city's and Beijing's leadership – is also accused of being the leader of an international pressure group called "Stand with Hong Kong".

Lai is also among the nine democracy leaders who have been on trial for two days for organizing and taking part in a large demonstration against the extradition law on August 18, 2019.