Jimmy Lai denied bail, may be detained till April given risks of fleeing HK

By Zhang Han and Cui Fandi Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/3 12:12:22

Jimmy Lai File Photo: AFP

Jimmy Lai, founder of Hong Kong media group Next Digital, was denied bail in his fraud case on Thursday and may be detained until his next trial — scheduled for April — while his violation of the national security law for Hong Kong is still in the legal process. Observers familiar with Hong Kong affairs suspected the denial was due to risks that Lai may flee Hong Kong. 

Lai stood trial with two senior managers of Next Digital at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts for a fraud case, where his Apple Daily gave use of tech park rental properties to a consulting firm, which violated the contract between Apple Daily and the tech park, Hong Kong media reported. 

Lai's application for bail was denied and if he does not apply again, he will be detained until April 16, when the fraud case is scheduled to be heard again. The two managers were released on bail.

Lai is simultaneously involved in a bail for violating the national security law for Hong Kong, after being arrested on August 10 on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security. The case is still under investigation.

Experts familiar with Hong Kong's judicial affairs said that the denial of bail on Thursday is a legal decision based on the fact that Lai was involved in multiple cases, and there is the risk that he might flee the city, given his connections with foreign countries. 

Lai was reportedly selling his properties below market prices, which was interpreted by Hong Kong media site on.cc as cashing out amid secessionist suspicions. Lai's top aide Mark Simon was revealed to have worked with US intelligence departments. 

Lai reported to police on Wednesday because of his bail situation. The same day, secessionists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were sentenced to various prison terms, which, together with Lai's bail denial, are positive signs that Hong Kong's judicial system is finally focused on maintaining social order, Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, noted. 

"But how big and profound the change is, remains to be seen from subsequent verdicts in more cases, including Lai's," Li said. 

There were some who said that the sentences of Joshua Wong and his fellow defendants were too light, and Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, solicitor of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, did not expect the situation to change very soon, given Hong Kong's common law system that tended to follow previous verdicts. 

Wong Ying-ho believes that joint efforts by multiple organs are required to improve social order in Hong Kong. "The Department of Justice and the Hong Kong Police Force have stepped up efforts to combat secessionist forces, and it is hoped that the judicial system will catch up," Wong Ying-ho told the Global Times on Thursday. 


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