Jimmy Lai faces charges under national security law, sets an important ‘gauge’ for other similar cases

By Chen Qingqing Source: Global Times Published: 2020/12/11 20:43:40

Jimmy Lai Photo:VCG


Anti-government media tycoon in Hong Kong Jimmy Lai, who is considered a "modern-day traitor" for his notorious acts and deeds in instigating one of the most violent and chaotic riots in the city in 2019, is scheduled to appear at a local court Saturday as he was formally charged under the national security law for Hong Kong.

Legal experts said the trial would become "an important gauge" for other national security law-related cases, testing the integrity of Hong Kong law enforcement and legal system. 

The high-profile case would also be heard as the national security law for Hong Kong took effect nearly half a year ago, while central authorities have been accelerating full-fledged reforms on various fronts, including the legislature, education and civil affairs to help the Chinese city restore constitutional order. 

After a thorough investigation by the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force, the 72-year-old man was charged with an additional offense of "collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security," the Hong Kong Police Force (HKFP) confirmed with the Global Times on Friday, when asked about Lai's case. The case will be heard at the West Kowloon Magistracy on Saturday morning.

"The ruling of this case will have much significance on Hong Kong society. However, how severe a punishment Lai would face depends on the evidence, which will also test the legal system of Hong Kong on national security-related cases," Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Friday. 

As the founder of Hong Kong media group Next Digital, Lai was denied bail in his fraud case earlier in December and may be detained until his next trial in April.

He was arrested on August 10 by the HKPF, about 40 days after the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong. Being the most high-profile case, it also delivered a heavy blow to local secessionists, experts said.

When asked about whether the case of Lai signaled a crackdown on freedom of speech and freedom of the press using the excuse of national security, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Friday that it's not China, but some other countries that arbitrarily crack down on Chinese individuals, institutions and enterprises in the name of "national security."

Those who lost their freedom were colluding with foreign forces, or used so-called "freedom" to engage in activities endangering the stability and freedom of Hong Kong, Hua said.

While some legal experts suggested that given Lai's infamous behavior, it's possible that he could face a severe sentence under the national security law for Hong Kong, and life imprisonment can't be ruled out. Li indicated that the judgment still depends on evidence. 

As the Trump administration, which has been severely confronting China with extreme provocation over Hong Kong affairs, enters its transition period, observers see this as the window of opportunity for China to continue consolidating the victorious fruits of the national security law for Hong Kong, which aims at secessionists like Lai and Joshua Wong. 

In the coming months, more reforms in law enforcement, legal, education and civil affairs sectors are expected to be accelerated to "clean up the mess" left by anti-government rioters in the Chinese city.

Posted in: LAW

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