Jimmy Lai released on bail
The media mogul put up US$ 1.3 million bail. He is now under house arrest pending his trial, and cannot use social media, give interviews, make public statements. or meet foreign political and diplomatic officials. Hong Kong’s Department of Justice immediately appealed the bail decision. The pro-democracy tycoon faces life in prison for colluding with foreign forces. Card Joseph Zen was among those present at the bail hearing.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai was released on bail today. The High Court ordered his release upon payment of HK$ 10 million (around US$ 1.3 million) on condition that he be confined to his home and report to police three times a week.
The 73-year-old owner of the Apple Daily, who has criticized Hong Kong and Chinese leaders, will also have to surrender his travel documents and cannot use social media, give interviews, make public statements, or meet with foreign political and diplomatic officials.
Right after bail was granted, Hong Kong’s Department of Justice applied for a certificate from the court to appeal against the bail decision at the Court of Final Appeal.
For now, the pro-democracy activist is due in court on 16 April on charges of “colluding" with foreign forces, an offence included in China’s national security law. He faces life imprisonment.
The accusations are based on interviews Lai gave to foreign publications, and on his call for foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong authorities for their actions against the pro-democracy movement.
For friends and collaborators, Hong Kong and mainland authorities want to silence Lai. He is the fourth Hong Kong citizen to be formally charged under the draconian new security law, which came into effect on 30 June.
The legislation punishes the crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. The Chinese government imposed it to stifle the pro-democracy movement. More than 30 people have been arrested under the law so far.
In the media tycoon’s case, he was jailed on 3 December on fraud charges for allegedly violating the lease terms for office space owned by Next Digital, the publisher of his newspaper, the Apple Daily.
Last Saturday, Lai was moved to a maximum security prison, which houses gangsters and leaders of the local underworld.
Pro-democracy groups continue to support the well-known publisher. Some of its leading figures – Yeung Sum, Albert Ho, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Leung Kwok-hung and Wu Chi-wai – were among those attending the court hearing.