Hong Kong, Dec 12 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate and media mogul Jimmy Lai was denied bail for the second time in less than a week on Saturday when he appeared in court in a case under the city’s controversial national security law.
The 73-year-old owner of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and founder of Next Digital faces one count of “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”
The prosecution at the West Kowloon Court alleged that between July 1 and Dec. 1, Lai “requested a foreign country or an institution, organization or individual” outside Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China to “impose sanctions or blockade, or engage in other hostile activists” against Hong Kong.
Lai is the fourth person – and the city’s highest-profile figure – charged under the national security law since it came into effect on June 30.
Anyone convicted of violating the law, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong following months of anti-government and anti-Beijing protests, could face life in prison.
Critics of the law, which punishes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, say it effectively crushes civil liberties and ends the “one country, two systems” political arrangement, which has differentiated Hong Kong from mainland China.
The prosecution requested an adjournment of the case to allow police time to conduct further investigations, including inspecting Lai’s Twitter account that contains over 1,000 tweets and comments. Lai opened a Twitter account in May 2020.
The court adjourned the case until Apr. 16, when Lai is due to appear in court for a hearing of a separate fraud case against him.
An ardent critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Lai was remanded in custody after Judge Victor So denied him bail on Dec. 3 following his arrest for alleged fraud related to a building lease.
Two other Next Media executives, who were charged alongside Lai with fraud over accusations that they violated lease terms, were released on bail.
So is also the judge in charge of the latest case against Lai. He is one of the six judges appointed to handle national security cases.
Before being taken away to the detention center, Lai smiled at the people sitting in the gallery and raised his fist.
Some people responded by uttering a colloquial Cantonese expression of encouragement: “Jimmy, add oil! Boss, add oil!” EFE-EPA