Hong Kong slams British ‘interference’ in Jimmy Lai case

Beijing, Jan 11 (EFE).- Hong Kong on Wednesday accused the United Kingdom of interfering in its internal affairs and expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” after reports that a British official met with the legal team of jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Lai, a British national, has spent two years in prison on a range of charges, but was sentenced in December to another five years and nine months in jail for allegedly violating the terms of a lease at the headquarters of Apple Daily newspaper, which he founded.

According to the British public broadcaster BBC on Tuesday, Lai’s international legal team asked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for an urgent meeting ahead of his trial later this year related to national security law charges.

The legal team later met with a British junior foreign office minister, Sunak’s spokesperson said, according to Reuters.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the former British colony accused London of interfering in Hong Kong affairs and said it “blatantly undermined Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial independence.”

“The Department of Justice of the Hong Kong SAR government prosecuted according to law, and the SAR court tried Lai Zhiying according to the law, which is justified and just, and no external forces are allowed to point fingers,” the spokesperson added.

“The UK uses the Lai case to wreak havoc on the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong. It provides ‘support’ for suspects regardless of right and wrong.”

In recent months, the Hong Kong government has tried to block the participation of British lawyers in the tycoon’s trial through legal processes, arguing that a foreign lawyer should not be authorized to take part in a process related to a charge of conspiracy with foreign forces.

Apple Daily was forced to close in June 2021 when its accounts were frozen and senior officials at the newspaper were arrested under Hong Kong’s national security law, which Beijing imposed in 2020 on the grounds of restoring order after a year of sometimes-violent protests.

Lai fled mainland China to Hong Kong when he was 12 years old and later built a network of pro-democracy media that included the defunct newspaper.

The businessman has been serving a 20-month sentence since December 2020 for various charges related to the anti-government protests that shook the city in 2019.

Lai’s lawyers have called the case against him “deeply concerning” and “emblematic.”

Hong Kongers critical of the national security law say it is aimed at silencing Beijing’s political opponents, many of whom have already been arrested since it came into force. EFE


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