“the Hong Kong Government will stop at nothing to silence its critics”
28 December 2021
Today, the Hong Kong Government introduced a further charge against the prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and former owner of Apple Daily newspaper, Jimmy Lai, and six other staff members of the defunct pro-democracy publication. The group have been accused by prosecutors of conspiring to “print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display and/or reproduce seditious publications.”
Jimmy Lai, who also holds UK citizenship, was arrested in August 2020 when the Hong Kong police raided Apple Daily, charging him with “colluding with foreign forces” under the National Security Law in December 2020.
The prosecution alleges that Mr Lai used the Apple Daily newspaper and his social media platforms, and conspired with Mark Simon, an American citizen, Chan Tsz-wah, a legal assistant, activist Andy Li Yu-hin and Lau Cho-dick, to call for foreign sanctions.
Lai has already been convicted three times for peacefully demonstrating in Hong Kong, his most recent being a 13-month sentence given two weeks ago for organising and taking part in a vigil last year for victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Under the National Security Law, foreign collusion is punishable by a prison term of between three and 10 years, while an offence considered particularly grave carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The case was adjourned to 24 February 2022 to give defendants more time to decide their pleas and to allow prosecutors the opportunity to lodge an application for the case to be transferred to the High Court.
Commenting on the introduction of a further charge against Jimmy Lai, Johnny Patterson, Hong Kong Watch’s Policy Director, said:
“The introduction of a further charge against Jimmy Lai and former Apple Daily journalists makes it clear that the Hong Kong Government will stop at nothing to silence its critics in the press.
Mr Lai is a respected businessman who previously owned one of the city’s most important opposition news outlet. His ongoing prosecution is a blow to press freedom and the rule of law, and a sign of just how fast the human rights situation in Hong Kong has deteriorated.
Liberal democracies must speak out in support for Mr Lai and call for the release of all political prisoners in Hong Kong.”