A Hong Kong media tycoon and advocate for democracy has been denied bail after being charged under the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s new national security law.
Jimmy Lai, 73, faces a charge of colluding with foreign elements to endanger national security, apparently for tweets he made and interviews or commentaries he gave to foreign media.
The Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper owned by Mr Lai, said he was accused of asking a foreign country, organisation or individual to impose sanctions or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or China.
His case was adjourned until 16 April at the request of prosecutors, who asked for extra time to allow police to review more than a thousand of his Twitter posts, the Apple Daily reported.
The newspaper said his charge sheet listed several foreign politicians who followed Mr Lai on Twitter.
The businessman, who was already being held on other fraud charges after police raided his media company, was seen wearing handcuffs and a chain around his waist as guards led him to a prison van to go to court. He wore a navy blazer and an open-neck shirt.
On Friday, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was “deeply” concerned about the way Hong Kong authorities were “pursuing legal cases against pro-democracy figures like Jimmy Lai”.
Beijing imposed sweeping new laws on 30 June, drawing condemnation from the West and prompting several countries, including Britain, Australia and Canada, to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.
The new law restricted free speech in the territory, and democracy activists see it as a way to suppress dissent.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Saturday morning that the security law “makes a mockery of justice”.
He called for the release of Mr Lai, saying his “only ‘crime’ is speaking the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarianism and fear of freedom”.
Mr Lai has called on other countries to take a tougher stance with China, and met with Mr Pompeo and vice president Mike Pence in the US last year to discuss the extradition bill, which Hong Kong’s government eventually withdrew.
But Mr Lai’s detention is not the only case cited by rights campaigners. Last week, prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed for 13 and a half months over an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019.
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