New indictment for Jimmy Lai who faces life imprisonment

Lai will stand before the High Court on national security and sedition charges. Six staff members of his Apple Daily face the same charges. The tabloid closed last year. Reports that Cardinal Zen will appear in court on 24 May have been denied.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – The pro-democracy Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai will be tried in the High Court on national security and sedition charges. He faces life in prison.

The founder of the now defunct tabloid Apple Daily appeared on Tuesday in front of the principal magistrate at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts along with six former staff members of his newspaper and its parent company Next Digital.

Lai, 74, faces four charges, including two counts of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or “external elements”, one count of collusion with foreign forces, and the last one, of conspiracy to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce “seditious” publications.

The other defendants are also waiting for their sentence on charges of colluding with foreign forces and conspiracy to print seditious publications.

Life imprisonment is the maximum sentence for violating the draconian national security law imposed by Beijing in the summer of 2020 to crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. A first sedition offence carries a two-years sentence.

Lai has been in jail since December 2020 serving time for participating in unauthorised protests. He is also on trial for fraud, accused of illegally using Apple Daily offices, housed in a rented public building.

Meanwhile, speaking to AsiaNews local sources did not confirm reports by The Guardian newspaper that Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is set to go before a judge on 24 May, the feast of Mary Help of Christians and Our Mother of Sheshan, and World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

The cardinal twitted that he was going to celebrate Mass on the evening of that day.

On 11 May police arrested Hong Kong’s bishop emeritus and released him after a few hours.

He and three other well-known supporters of the city's pro-democracy movement, face charges in connection with the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a charity that helped pro-democracy demonstrators involved in the 2019 protests, until it was dissolved last October.

Card Zen was one of the trustees of the charity, which the police accuse of “collusion” with foreign forces.