Lai, the founder of Next Digital, which manages the newspaper Apple Daily, was charged with “collusion with foreign forces” under the national security laws, Apple Daily and other news outlets reported on December 11. He attended a court mention on December 12 at West Kowloon Courts.
Local reports said Lai’s past comments made via Twitter and during interviews with foreign news organizations may have been used against him. In those remarks, Lai called on foreign governments to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong and Chinese governments in response to the passing and implementation of the controversial national security law.
Lai is currently being detained for a charge of fraud. His detention is expected to last through to his April 16, 2021, court hearing. An application for bail was rejected on December 3.
On August 10, Lai was arrested by the authorities from his residence on suspicion of offences related to the national security laws as well as fraud. Two other Next Digital executives were also detained over similar charges the same day, but were later granted bail. In addition to the detentions, the Apple Daily office was raided by the Hong Kong law enforcement.
Under the national security law, which took effect on June 30, those found guilty of collusion with foreign forces face sentences of between three to 10 years in prison. They may face life imprisonment or more than 10 years behind bars if their offence is ruled to be of a grave nature.
The IFJ said: “The Hong Kong government has sought to silence media organizations and workers through the use of detentions and charges under these new national security laws. The IFJ strongly condemns the groundless charges against Lai and the curtailment of press freedom in Hong Kong, and it calls on the authorities to release Lai immediately and drop all the charges against him.”
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