Accessibility links

Breaking News

Hong Kong’s Highest Court Denies Bail for Media Tycoon and Pro-Democracy Activist

Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves the Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, Feb. 9, 2021.
Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves the Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal, Feb. 9, 2021.

Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai remains behind bars after the city’s highest court denied him bail during a court appearance Tuesday.

The 73-year-old Lai was arrested on December 3 and spent three weeks behind bars before posting a $1.2 million bond. Prosecutors appealed the decision to grant Lai bail, claiming the judgement by a lower court was erroneous.

The Court of Final Appeal agreed with prosecutors in its ruling, citing the new national security law that denies bail to a criminal suspect or defendant “unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts endangering national security."

The owner of Next Digital media company was initially charged with fraud, with prosecutors accusing him of violating terms of the company’s lease of its office space. Lai has since been charged under Hong Kong’s new national security law for “foreign collusion.”

Lai was first arrested under the new law on suspicion of foreign collusion in August. Hours after his arrest, more than 100 police officers raided the headquarters of Next Digital, which publishes the newspaper Apple Day. 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 eventually released on bail after 40 hours in custody.

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.

He is one of the highest-profile Hong Kongers targeted by the new security law since it went into effect last 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.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.