Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai back to jail after court denies bail

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A Hong Kong court denied another bail application on Thursday of media tycoon and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai, sending the pro-democracy advocate back to a top-security jail to await trial on charges of “collusion with foreign powers”.

Lai, who founded the Next Digital media conglomerate, is the most high-profile person to be charged under a draconian national security law imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 01, 2020.

He was previously denied bail after the prosecution argued that he could reoffend.

Thursday’s decision came after Lai’s legal team made repeated challenges to his continued detention, and he was briefly released on bail after a successful appeal at the High Court, before the city’s Court of Final Appeal ruled that the High Court was wrong to let him out of custody.

Police in Hong Kong rearrested Lai, who was already awaiting trial on another count of “collusion with foreign powers,” on suspicion of “conspiracy to assist offenders” and “conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”

Lai was rearrested on a separate “collusion” charge on Wednesday, and High Court Justice and national security judge Anthea Pang ordered him back behind bars.

“I am not satisfied that there are sufficient grounds to believe that he will not continue to commit acts that endanger national security,” Pang told the court, and said she would publish her reasoning at a later date.

She also declined to lift restrictions preventing the media from reporting the details of bail applications, saying that they could still report the results.

Lai appeared calm on arrival at court in a Correctional Services Department vehicle on Thursday, and waved and made heart shapes with his hands to supporters outside the court as he left.

His family wept and hugged each other after the decision was announced.

Veteran democracy campaigner Alexandra Wong, who became a familiar sight during the 2019 protest movement waving the British flag, called out “Hang in there, Mr. Lai!” as he was taken back to Stanley Prison.

Outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen was also among Lai’s supporters outside the High Court, while pro-China protesters shouted slogans calling Lai a “traitor,” and demanding “severe punishment.”

Lai’s Apple Daily newspaper reported that he was accused of helping Andy Li, who was among 12 fugitives to board a boat on Aug. 23, 2020, in a bid to sail to democratic Taiwan.

All 12 speedboat fugitives were later detained en route by the China Coast Guard, in an operation believed to be supported by Hong Kong government aircraft, and 10 were handed jail terms for their involvement in an “illegal border crossing.”

Two who were under 18 at the time of their arrest were handed back to the Hong Kong authorities following a behind-closed-doors hearing. (Source: RFA)

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