Published: Feb 09, 2021, 11:30 AM(IST)
Hong Kong’s top court on Tuesday ordered pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai to stay behind bars as it backed an appeal by prosecutors against granting him bail, in a landmark legal test of Beijing’s national security law.
“The appellant’s appeal must accordingly be allowed and the judge’s decision to grant the respondent bail must be set aside,” a panel of judges wrote in their ruling.
Lai, 73, who owns the pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily, is one of more than 100 democracy supporters arrested under the new law since it was enacted in June, and the highest-profile figure to be incarcerated on pretrial charges
Lai had been in custody since December 3, except for when he was released on bail for about a week late last year.
He was granted a HK$10 million ($1.3 million) bail by a lower court on December 23 only for the Court of Final Appeal to bring him back into custody on December 31 for another hearing.
Jimmy Lai has been accused by the authorities of colluding with foreign countries by calling on overseas governments to sanction Hong Kong and China in response to an ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activism in the city.
More than 1,000 of his tweets and a number of media interviews he gave have been examined by the prosecution.
The security law is the most dramatic shift in Hong Kong’s relationship with China since it was handed back by Britain in 1997.
It criminalised a host of political views and toppled the legal firewall between the two territories.
Written in Beijing and imposed by fiat, it allows mainland security agents to operate openly in the city for the first time, and even grants China jurisdiction in some cases.