The founder of One Media Hong Kong, Lai Chi-ying, who was detained on fraud charges, was charged by the police with “colluding with foreign countries or forces outside the country to endanger national security” under the National Security Law, the first person to be charged with this crime since the implementation of the National Security Law, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and may be “sent to China”. “The case was heard on Saturday (Dec. 12). The case was arraigned at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Saturday (Dec. 12). The judge assigned to hear the case, Judge So Wai-tak, adjourned the case until April 16 next year to be arraigned jointly with another fraud case involving Lai Chi-ying, and again refused Lai’s application for bail.
Lai Chi-ying, the founder of One Media Hong Kong, has been arrested by the police four times since February 28 this year, twice for participating in last year’s anti-China movement and organizing unauthorized rallies, and once for participating in this year’s June 4 candlelight rally in Victoria Park, the 31st anniversary of June 4, suspected of illegal assembly.
Lai Chi-ying was charged with collusion, the first prosecution after the implementation of the National Security Law.
The most sensational was the high-profile search of the Apple Daily building on August 10 this year by about 200 police officers, who arrested Lai Chi-ying, his two sons, four senior executives of Next Media, as well as three social activists, including Hong Kong Story member Lee Yu-hin, former Scholarism member Chow Ting and Lee Chung-chak, for violating Article 29 of the National Security Law and conspiracy to defraud.
The 73-year-old Lai Chi-ying reported to the police station last Wednesday (Dec. 2) on suspicion of violating Hong Kong’s national security law, was detained by the police overnight and charged with one count of fraud, and was arraigned last Thursday (Dec. 3), the case was heard by Judge So Wai-tak, the designated judge of Hong Kong’s national security law, Lai Chi-ying’s application for bail was denied, and he needs to be detained in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre for nearly five months until his arraignment on April 16 next year.
This is the first time that Lai Chi-ying was denied bail and has to be detained pending trial, after a week, on Friday (December 11) was charged by the police with “collusion with foreign countries or forces outside the country to endanger national security” under Article 29 of the National Security Law of Hong Kong, which is the first person to be charged with the relevant offence after the implementation of the National Security Law late on June 30 this year.
The case is postponed until April next year, Lai Chi-ying is not allowed bail
According to the prosecution’s case, Lai Chi-ying is accused of violating Article 29(4) of the Hong Kong SAR National Security Law by requesting foreign countries or organizations or persons outside Hong Kong to impose sanctions, blockade or take other hostile actions against the Hong Kong SAR or the People’s Republic of China during the period from July 1 to December 1 this year (including the first two days).
The prosecution applied for adjournment of the case until April 16 next year, pending further examination by the police, which will search for evidence on Lai Chi-ying’s social networking site Twitter account, including the examination of more than 1,000 messages and comments, as well as related video interviews.
The prosecution said that the case is charged with serious crimes, plus Lai Chi-ying belongs to the court during the guarantee, so oppose Lai Chi-ying bail out. The prosecution also said that Lai Chi-ying was granted court recognizance after his first appearance in other cases on May 18 this year, during which he was suspected of committing three more cases, including participating in the June 4 unauthorized assembly in Victoria Park and this case.
The defense objected to the prosecution’s adjournment of the case until April next year, arguing that the prosecution has all the evidence, wrote a 17-page prosecution case, the defense does not understand why the prosecution needs such a long time to investigate, filed an application to adjourn the case for one month. The prosecution countered by saying that, based on practical considerations, it would be more appropriate to postpone the case until April 16 next year, along with another fraud case involving Lai Chi-ying, in order to avoid repeated postponements and ensure the completion of the investigation.
The judge So Wai Tak finally decided to postpone the case until the afternoon of April 16 next year and then arraigned, Lai Chi Ying is not allowed bail, during which he needs to continue to be detained in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.
Scholars criticize the case is naked political persecution
According to Hong Kong’s national security law, Lai Chi-ying was charged with “colluding with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security”, requesting foreign countries or foreign institutions to impose sanctions, blockade or take hostile actions against the HKSAR government or China is a crime, punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison, and the serious crime can be sentenced to more than 10 years or life imprisonment. According to Article 55 of the National Security Law, under certain circumstances, such as complex cases involving the intervention of foreign countries or forces outside China, the case may be “sent to China” for referral to the courts of Mainland China.
Former assistant professor of the Department of Applied Social Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and deputy CEO of the Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion said in an interview with the Voice of America that he believes the prosecution of Lai Chi-ying under the National Security Law is a naked political persecution, and reflects the harshness of the law under the National Security Law, which does not reflect the spirit of fairness and justice in the rule of law.
I think this is naked political persecution, what did Lai Chi-ying do to collude with foreign forces? Strictly speaking, the national security law itself is a political repression tool, not a regulation that pursues social justice or reflects the rule of law.”
Questioned as retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials
Zhong Jianhua said that the implementation of the Hong Kong National Security Law has received widespread negative international criticism, and after the U.S. announced on Monday (Dec. 7) that it had imposed sanctions on 14 Chinese National People’s Congress vice chairmen related to the passage of the Hong Kong National Security Law over Hong Kong, the police announced Friday that they had charged Lai Chi-ying with collusion with a foreign power under the National Security Law, which he believes could be a form of retaliation.
Scholars question hostage diplomacy for political prisoners
The British Home Secretary Priti Patel and Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey met for the first time in London on Wednesday (Dec. 9) with exiled former Hong Kong House of Representatives founding party chairman Law Kwun-chung and the sister of Hong Kong resident Lee Yu-hin, who sent him to China for 12 years, after the UK introduced the BNO (British National Overseas Passport) immigration scheme for Hong Kong people in response to the national security law.
Pendleton made it clear after the meeting that Britain will stand with Hong Kong people as well as deliver on its promise to protect the freedom of Hong Kong people. Mr. Lo said that the BNO scheme is of great significance to Hong Kong people who are gradually losing their freedom, and Hong Kong people are grateful to the British government for providing the BNO scheme at the critical moment, which has saved some Hong Kong people from political suppression. He thanked the British Home Secretary for his efforts in formulating the policy, describing the constructive dialogue that took place.
In an interview with the Voice of America, Wong Wai-kwok, a former assistant professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Hong Kong Baptist University and a current affairs commentator, said Hong Kong police announced Friday that they had added charges against Lai Chi-ying under the National Security Act after Pang Dai-ling met with Law Kwun-chung and others, which he described as a kind of political prisoner and even hostage diplomacy.
I believe that a kind of “hostage diplomacy” or “political prisoner diplomacy” has been formed, that is, when the British, the United States, and even other countries have been sanctioning the Chinese Communist Party or the Lin Zheng regime That is to say, when Britain, the United States, or even other countries sanction the Chinese Communist Party or Lin Zheng’s regime, the authorities may arrest some pan-democrats or former pan-democratic members of the Legislative Council, or even freeze their accounts for economic crimes, as a punitive measure. So I expect that civil society, civil society, former pan-democratic legislators, and even pan-democratic district councilors may be targeted.”
Wong Wai-kwok said that because Lai Chi-ying is a more internationally known Hong Kong media figure, he believes the case will receive international attention and Hong Kong may become a place of international political wrangling, creating a lot of uncertainty.
Britain, U.S., EU concerned about Lai Chi-ying’s prosecution by national security law
Lai Chi-ying has been charged with violating Hong Kong’s national security law, which has attracted international attention. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a Twitter post, “Today’s charges against Lai Chi-ying are an insult to freedom-loving people everywhere. Lai Chi-ying is a hero and I am always inspired by his persistence in fighting for democracy and the rights that Hong Kong people deserve to be protected.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Twitter post that Hong Kong’s national security laws flout justice and that Lai’s only “crime” was telling the truth about Chinese Communist authoritarianism and fear of freedom. All charges should be dropped immediately and he should be released immediately.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Johnson said the British government is highly concerned about the incident and believes the Hong Kong regime is taking legal action against pro-democracy supporters, including Lai Chi-ying.
European Union Foreign Affairs Director for Asia and the Pacific, David Guenevere, said on Twitter that the charges against Lai Chi-ying under the National Security Law are another “concerning” development for civil society and pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong.
China’s Foreign Ministry and Hong Kong government oppose foreign intervention
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded that China does not suppress freedom on the grounds of national security, and she criticized individual countries for abusing the name of national security to suppress Chinese personnel, institutions and enterprises.
In response to comments from overseas political circles calling for the withdrawal of charges and the release of Lai Chi-ying, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Department of Justice reiterated Saturday that all prosecutions are conducted in strict accordance with the law and no one should interfere or attempt to interfere with independent prosecution decisions. Prosecution decisions are made based on an objective analysis of all admissible evidence and applicable law.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that it would be inappropriate for anyone to comment further on the case as judicial proceedings are still ongoing. The spokesman said he was surprised that a senior official from another jurisdiction had publicly requested the dismissal of the charges and the immediate release of the defendant. The spokesman also said that these actions not only disrespect the judicial system of the HKSAR and undermine the rule of law, but also attempt to interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are the internal affairs of China.