Hong Kong’s highest court sent media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who is facing national security charges, back to jail until at least February.
The Court of Final Appeal (CFA) ruled Thursday that Lai must be returned to custody while judges consider the government’s appeal against his bail due to the seriousness of the charges.
Lai, 76, was initially jailed on 3 December 03, and was released to house arrest by the high court 20 days later on a HK$10m bail (£960,000). Among the conditions for his house arrest was not to speak publicly or use social media.
Hong Kong’s justice department sought leave to appeal against the decision at the time but was refused by the high court as Lai is not accused of a violent crime and is not considered a flight risk.
The Hong Kong prosecution then took its case directly to the CFA, local media reported.
A panel of three CFA judges including the outgoing chief justice, Geoffrey Ma, sided with the prosecutors and remanded Lai until the next scheduled court hearing on February 01, when they could hear the appeal.
Lai is the most high-profile person charged under Hong Kong’s national security law that was imposed on the territory by China in June to crack down on protests that had rocked the city for months.
According to local media, the ruling centred on interpretations of article 42 in the national security law, which removes the presumption of bail for defendants.
The article states: “No bail shall be granted 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 CFA made no ruling on the law, only that it would hear the justice department’s case and return Lai to the status quo, jailed on remand, in the meantime.
Lai is facing trial for alleged foreign collusion under the national security law, as well as fraud and protest-related charges.
The national security charges centre on comments he made in interviews to foreign media and on Twitter in opposition to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments’ crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
Hong Kong police have arrested more than 30 people under the national security law introduced in late June, mostly for nonviolent political crimes. Four people have been charged.
Of these, Lai was the only one to have been granted bail. (Source: The Guardian)