Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai has been arrested and charged with fraud.
The 73-year-old Lai appeared in a Hong Kong courtroom Thursday along with two other executives of his Next Digital company and was accused of violating terms of the company’s lease of its office space. He was denied bail and his case has been adjourned until next April.
Lai was arrested at his home in August and charged with suspicion of colluding with a foreign country under the city’s new national security law imposed by China. Hours after his arrest, more than 100 police officers raided the headquarters of Lai’s Next Digital company, which publishes the newspaper Apple Daily. The newspaper livestreamed the raid on its website, showing officers roaming the newsroom as they rummaged through reporters’ files, while Lai was led through the newsroom in handcuffs.
He was one of at least 10 people arrested that day, including at least one of Lai’s sons.
Lai is already in legal jeopardy for his pro-democracy activism. He was one of 15 activists arrested earlier this year and hit with seven charges, including organizing and participating in unauthorized assemblies and inciting others to take part in an unauthorized assembly.
Lai’s arrest Thursday comes a day after three young Hong Kong pro-democracy activists -- 24-year-old Joshua Wong, 23-year-old Agnes Chow and 26-year-old Ivan Lam -- received jail sentences between seven and 13 1/2 months in connection with a protest outside the city’s police headquarters in June 2019.
Lai is one of the highest-profile Hong Kongers targeted by the new security law since it went into effect in July. Under the law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.
The new law was imposed by Beijing in response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the last half of last year, and is the cornerstone of its increasing grip on the city, which was granted an unusual amount of freedoms when Britain handed over control in 1997.