New twist in the story that links Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong media mogul and figure of the pro-democracy camp, and the police in Hong Kong. The latter was returned to prison on Thursday, December 31, after a hearing before the highest judicial body in the city, which followed the requisitions of the prosecution, which did not want his release on bail.
Mr. Lai, who is very critical of Beijing, is one of the best-known Hong Kong figures targeted by the national security law imposed by Beijing to restore calm in the territory after more than six months of protests in 2019.
At 73, the boss of the tabloid Apple Daily carried out twenty days of detention before being released on December 23, against the payment of a bond of 10 million HKD (1 million euros) and under very strict conditions. Under house arrest, he was also banned from speaking in public and posting on Twitter.
The Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday allowed the prosecution to appeal the decision of a lower court judge who could “Be mistaken in its interpretation or application” of article 42 of the new legislation.
The latter stipulates that no release on bail should be granted, unless the judge has sufficient reason to believe that the defendant will not commit more offenses.
“We have concluded that it is possible to argue that the judge’s decision was in error and that his bail order was invalid”, states the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal, which authorizes the prosecution to appeal. He also granted the latter’s request to maintain the detention of the media mogul until 1er February, when the appeal will be considered.
Jimmy Lai is accused of “Collusion with foreign powers” for calling on foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong and China in response to Beijing’s policy in the semi-autonomous territory.
Over a thousand of Mr. Lai’s tweets and a large number of media interviews he gave have been investigated by the prosecution. Mr. Lai is the first security law defendant to be granted bail. The prosecution immediately appealed against this decision.
People’s Daily, an organ of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China, criticized the release on bail, arguing that it “Undermined the rule of law in Hong Kong”. Mr. Lai is also facing prosecution for fraud and for taking part in illegal gatherings during the 2019 protest movement.
On Tuesday he stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer of the Next Digital Limited news group, which owns the newspaper Apple Daily, that this autodidact created thirty years ago. He submitted his resignation “In order to spend more time taking care of personal affairs”, reported Bloomberg, citing a press release from the news group.
The year 2020 was marked by an unprecedented decline in freedoms in Hong Kong. China had nevertheless undertaken, before recovering Hong Kong in 1997, to preserve the freedoms and semi-autonomy of the territory for fifty years, in application of the principle “One country, two systems” negotiated with London. But the Chinese leaders have operated, this year, a muscular takeover of the semi-autonomous territory, where certain opinions are now liable to life imprisonment.