Tag Archives: Jimmy Lai

Court denies top Media personnel, Jimmy Lai bail.

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But the national security legislation was penned directly by Beijing and looks set to trump any other legislation in the event of a dispute.

Hong Kong’s top court on Tuesday ordered pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai to stay behind bars as it sided with prosecutors in the first legal test of Beijing’s sweeping new national security law.

The landmark case cements the dramatic changes the security law has begun making to semi-autonomous Hong Kong’s common law traditions as Beijing seeks to snuff out dissent in the restless financial hub.

Lai, the 73-year-old owner of pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, is one of some 100 activists arrested under the law since it was enacted in June, and the highest-profile figure to be placed in pre-trial custody.

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He has been charged with “colluding with foreign forces” — one of the new security crimes — for allegedly calling for sanctions against Hong Kong and China.

The security law is the most pronounced shift in Hong Kong’s relationship with China since it was handed back by Britain in 1997.

It criminalised a host of political views and toppled the legal firewall between the two territories.

Written in Beijing and imposed by fiat, it allows mainland security agents to operate openly in the city for the first time, and even grants China jurisdiction in some cases.

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Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Final Appeal centred around bail.

Presumption of bail for non-violent crimes is a hallmark of Hong Kong’s legal system.

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But the national security law removes that presumption and says judges have to be sure a defendant “will not continue to commit acts endangering national security”.

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai (R) is escorted into a Hong Kong Correctional Services van outside the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on February 1, 2021, after being ordered to remain in jail while judges consider his fresh bail application, the first major legal challenge to a sweeping national security law Beijing imposed on the city last year. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Lai was detained in December and released on bail for about a week after a lower court granted him HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) bail together with a stringent list of requirements, including house arrest, no interviews and no social media posts.

But he was put back behind bars after the prosecution sought to challenge those bail conditions.

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‘Stringent threshold’
On Tuesday, a panel of five senior judges ruled in favour of the prosecution and said that the lower court judge had erred in granting Lai bail.

The security law, the judges wrote, “creates such a specific exception to the general rule in favour of the grant of bail and imports a stringent threshold requirement for bail applications”.

The judges said Lai could make a fresh bail application in the lower courts which would have to take into account their directions.

Legal analysts were closely watching the case for an indication of whether Hong Kong’s judiciary will serve — or even can serve — as any kind of constitutional brake against Beijing’s security law.

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The judiciary can only interpret laws, which are usually passed by Hong Kong’s semi-elected legislature.

During challenges to new legislation, judges balance the wording of the law against common law traditions and core liberties that are enshrined in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and its Bill of Rights.

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But the national security legislation was penned directly by Beijing and looks set to trump any other legislation in the event of a dispute.

Bail is not the only area where legal precedents are changing under the security law.

On Monday, AFP revealed authorities have opted not to use a jury for the first national security trial, according to a legal source with direct knowledge, citing security concerns for jury members.

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Asked about that decision on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam replied: “I will not comment on individual cases which are now under the judicial process.”

Challenging the security law in court may be tricky.

In Hong Kong’s complex constitutional hierarchy, the ultimate arbiter of the laws is Beijing’s Standing Committee, which has shown an increased willingness in recent years to wade into legal arguments and make pronouncements.

China’s state media have already declared Lai guilty and made clear authorities expect Hong Kong’s judges to side with Beijing on national security.

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In a tweet, China’s state-run Global Times hailed Tuesday’s Lai ruling, describing him as a “major secessionist”.

Senior Chinese officials have recently backed calls to “reform” Hong Kong’s judiciary, something opponents fear signals support for a more mainland-style legal system that answers to the Communist Party and where convictions are all but guaranteed.

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#Newsworthy

[China] Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai cleared of charges, released.

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Case against media tycoon dates back to 2017 and is not related to his arrest under China-imposed national security law.


A court in Hong Kong has declared media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai not guilty of criminal intimidation, ending one of several cases against him after his high-profile arrest under a new national security law.

Thursday’s verdict was for a case that dates back to 2017 and was unrelated to his arrest last month.

Lai, who is a key critic of Beijing, had used foul language when confronting a reporter from Oriental Daily News, a major competitor to Lai’s tabloid Apple Daily.

Police, however, only charged him in February this year.

The mainland-born media magnate had pleaded not guilty.

He smiled after the verdict was read out and shook hands with supporters who filled the courtroom.

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Lai’s case comes after he was arrested for suspected collusion with foreign forces on August 10, making him the highest-profile person to be arrested under the Beijing-imposed law.

Jimmy Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year [Tyrone Siu/ Reuters]

The 71-year-old had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he met officials including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.

After Lai’s August arrest about 200 police officers searched the office of his Apple Daily newspaper.

The national security law punishes any act China considers subversion, succession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.

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Lai’s Apple Daily has vied with pro-Beijing Oriental Daily for readership in the special administrative region. In 2014 the Oriental Daily published a fake obituary of Lai, claiming that he had died of AIDS and many types of cancer.

Prosecutors in the case said Lai had intimidated the Oriental Daily reporter.

Lai’s lawyers said Lai had been followed by reporters for three years and his comments were not intended to harm the reporter but expressed his exasperation.

Lai is also facing separate court cases for illegal assembly relating to anti-government protests last year.


SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


#Newsworthy…

Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media tycoon arrested.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested Monday and led in handcuffs through his newspaper office as police raided the building, part of a sweeping crackdown on dissent since China imposed a security law on the city.

Lai, 71, was among nine people detained on charges including colluding with foreign forces — one of the new national security offences — and fraud in an operation targeting his Next Digital publishing group.

It was the latest police operation against dissidents under the sweeping new law introduced at the end of June.

Two of Lai’s sons were among those detained, a police source told Media as well as Wilson Li, a former pro-democracy activist who describes himself as a freelance videographer working for Britain’s ITV News.

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The most serious national security crimes carry up to life in jail.

Journalists working at Lai’s Apple Daily broadcasted dramatic footage on Facebook of some 200 police officers conducting the raid, and the newspaper’s chief editor Law Wai-kwong demanding a warrant from officers.

Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

Apple’s staff were ordered to leave their seats and line up so police could check their identities as officers conducted searches across the newsroom.

At one point Lai was present, in handcuffs and surrounded by officers.

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Police said the search was conducted with a court warrant which was shown to staff.

‘Assault on free press’
Chris Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, described the police action as “shocking and terrifying”.

“This is unprecedented, and would be unimaginable only one or two months ago,” he said.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong said the raid signalled “a dark new phase” that “upended” previous assurances by China and Hong Kong’s government that the national security law would not end press freedoms.

Chris Patten, the last colonial governor of Hong Kong, accused authorities of carrying out “the most outrageous assault yet on what is left of Hong Kong’s free press”.

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The security law was introduced in a bid to quell last year’s huge and often violent pro-democracy protests, and authorities have since wielded their new powers to pursue the city’s democracy camp, sparking criticism from Western nations and sanctions from the United States.

Lai’s Apple Daily and Next Magazine are unapologetically pro-democracy and critical of Beijing.

In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai (C) arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates Court for charges related to last year’s protests in Hong Kong. Anthony WALLACE / AFP

They are enormously popular but funded almost entirely out of Lai’s pocket because few companies dare advertise with them lest they incur Beijing’s wrath.

After Lai’s arrest, Next Digital shares soared more than 250 percent as supporters made online calls for people to buy the stock.

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Across the border, few Hong Kongers generate the level of personal vitriol from Beijing that Lai does.

China routinely calls him a “traitor” and a “black hand” behind last year’s protests.

A small group of Beijing supporters celebrated by popping champagne outside Lai’s offices on Monday afternoon.

Lai spoke to Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) in mid-June, two weeks before the new security law was imposed on Hong Kong.

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“I’m prepared for prison,” he said.

He described Beijing’s new security law as “a death knell for Hong Kong” and said he feared authorities would come after his journalists.

He also brushed off the collusion allegations, saying Hong Kongers had a right to meet with foreign politicians.

Police cordon off the street outside the Next Media publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong Kong on August 10, 2020. ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP

Sweeping new law
Beijing’s new law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

Both China and Hong Kong have said it will not affect freedoms and only targets a minority.

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But its broadly worded provisions criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions, greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.

Critics, including many Western nations, believe the law has ended the key liberties and autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong could keep after its 1997 handover by Britain.

Washington last week responded by imposing sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.

The law’s introduction has coincided with ramped-up police action against democracy supporters.

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About two dozen — including Lai — have been charged for defying a police ban to attend a Tiananmen remembrance vigil in early June. Lai and many others are also being prosecuted for taking part in last year’s protests.

Last month a dozen high-profile pro-democracy figures were disqualified from standing in local elections for holding unacceptable political views.

The banned opinions included being critical of the security law and campaigning to win a majority in the city’s partially-elected legislature in order to block government laws.

Shortly after the disqualifications, city leader Lam postponed the elections for a year, citing a surge in coronavirus cases.


#Newsworthy…