HK media mogul Jimmy Lai slapped with extra national security law charge, also accused of perverting justice over fugitive’s escape to Taiwan

17-Apr-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has been charged with an additional national security offence for allegedly calling for foreign sanctions and another of perverting justice for helping in a fugitive’s escape to Taiwan.

Prosecutors accused the 73-year-old founder of Next Digital of taking part in a separate conspiracy to collude with foreign forces between July 2020 and January 2021, on top of the same charge he is already facing.

The charge was laid before Lai on the same day he was handed 14 months in jail for his role in two unauthorised assemblies during the anti-government protests in 2019.

Prosecutors argued that between July and August last year, Lai also implicated himself in another plot involving Chan Tsz-wah, a legal assistant, and activist Andy Li Yu-hin to arrange the latter’s escape.

Li was among 12 people detained in mainland China last year after the Chinese coastguard intercepted them as they tried to flee to Taiwan. Eleven faced charges over the 2019 unrest at the time of their escape, while Li had been arrested but not charged.

The new charges were laid on Friday at West Kowloon Court, where Lai also faced sentencing for another charge, in a separate courtroom, of taking part in an unauthorised assembly in 2019.

Details of the new national security charge were scant as they were not read out in court, although the charge said Lai had conspired with Mark Simon, an American who was Lai’s right-hand man, Li, Chan, and a man called Lau Cho-dick.

Previously, Lai was charged with one count of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security in December last year, little more than five months after Beijing imposed the sweeping law on Hong Kong.

In that case, the prosecutors accused him of using his social media platform and the Apple Daily newspaper to call for sanctions.

On Friday, prosecutor Ivan Cheung urged Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, one of the unknown number of judges appointed by the chief executive to hear national security cases, to adjourn Lai’s case to June 15.

“Due to the newly added charges and more arising financial details, we would need to further investigate,” he said.

So adjourned the case after Lai’s defence lawyers raised no objection.

Lai has also been accused of defrauding Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation over the lease of his newspaper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O with two other senior staff, So was told.

Cheung told So that the case would be heard in the District Court, and the chief magistrate ordered Lai to be brought back before him on May 16 for the official transferral procedures.

Since he was charged on December 3, Lai has spent most of the time in jail after prosecutors successfully asked the court not to grant him bail.

At one point, Lai was out for about a week in December after a High Court judge released him under certain conditions, including house arrest, a HK$10 million cash bail and a ban on him to use his social media. Lai was locked up again after prosecutors successfully argued at the Court of Final Appeal that the lower court was wrong.

Li was returned to Hong Kong last month with eight others after serving time in jail on the mainland. The activist has also been charged with conspiracy to assist offenders, conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces under the national security law, and possession of ammunition without a licence.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.