02/24/2021, 12.44
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong’s Judge Pang: Jimmy Lai is a potential security threat

The Court motivation for the rejection of latest bail request by the democracy tycoon. His commitment not to use the internet and to limit contact overlooked. The legal foundations of the city have been subverted. Links between Lai and the “Stand with Hong Kong” pressure group rejected.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Jimmy Lai must remain in prison because there is a risk he could commit new crimes against national security. This is the High Court motivation published yesterday with regarding its February 18 rejection of the latest bail request presented by democracy advocate and media mogul.

Now on April 16, Lai will appear before the judges on charges of "collusion" with foreign forces, a charge provided for by the national security law set up by Beijing.

The 73-year-old owner of Apple Daily - a critical voice of the city's leadership and central government - was jailed in early December; on 9 February the Final Appeals Court invalidated his release on bail, granted on 23 December by the High Court. At the request of the Justice Department, an Intermediary Court suspended his bail on December 31, ordering his return to Stanley maximum security prison. Also indicted for corruption, he faces life imprisonment.

In rejecting the bail application, judge Anthea Pang ignored two "additional conditions" offered by the defence: Lai's commitment not to use the web and to limit the number and duration of visits to his home. Considering the accused's financial capabilities and network of relationships, Pang explained that the risk of repeating the crime is very high.

The judges position on the Lai case has drawn criticism from legal experts and the democratic front. The charge is of exploiting the national security law to subvert fundamental principles included in the Basic Law (the city's mini-constitution), such as the presumption of innocence. Confirming the ruling of the Final Court of Appeal, Judge Pang said the security measure imposes stricter thresholds for bail, with the burden of proof on the defence and not the prosecution: rules of the British "common law", the basis of the city’s legal system.

Lai also faces trial on charges of allegedly helping Andy Li, one of 12 anti-government activists who tried to flee to Taiwan in the summer again another crime under the recent security law. The billionaire is also among the nine democratic personalities who have been on trial for days for organizing and taking part in a major demonstration against the extradition law on August 18, 2019.

Police believe Lai is the leader of an international pressure group called “Stand with Hong Kong”. Based in Great Britain, it allegedly launched a worldwide campaign to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong executive and the Chinese authorities. Its founder, Finn Lau, however, denied any connection with the democracy advocate and tycoon.

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