Jimmy Lai: Hong Kong mogul pleads not guilty to national security crimes

Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily founder, arrives at the Court of Final Appeal ahead a bail hearing on February 9, 2021 in Hong Kong, China.
Image caption,Mr Lai, 76, is the most prominent person charged for violating the Beijing-backed National Security Law

By Joel Guinto

BBC News

Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai has pleaded not guilty to sedition and collusion with foreign forces in a landmark security trial.

Mr Lai, 76, faces life imprisonment if convicted of threatening China’s national security.

His case has sparked an international outcry and is widely seen as a test of Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

His landmark trial started on 18 December after a year-long delay and is expected to last for about 80 days.

Mr Lai has been held in solitary confinement since December 2020, following his arrest for fraud and for his involvement in protests in the former British territory.

He is a UK citizen and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron is among those who have called for his release.

He is the most prominent person charged with violating the Beijing-backed National Security Law (NSL), which critics allege is being used to crack down on dissent.

Just hours before he was charged in 2020, Mr Lai said in a BBC interview that he sees himself as a “born rebel” with a “very rebellious character”.

Mr Lai founded the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. He was also on the frontlines of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, from 2014’s Umbrella Movement to huge demonstrations against a Beijing-backed extradition bill five years later.

He is among more than 250 activists, lawmakers and protesters detained under the NSL and sedition charges.

The NSL was introduced in 2020 in response to mammoth pro-democracy protests. Beijing says it is necessary to quell unrest. It has also referred to Mr Lai as a traitor who seeks to undermine China’s security.

Mr Lai was born in southern China’s Guangzhou province in 1947. He left China when he was just 12 and escaped to Hong Kong as a stowaway on a boat.

In Hong Kong, Mr Lai worked in a garment sweatshop and taught himself English. He later founded the global apparel brand Giordano.

His career veered towards political activism and media after tanks crushed pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989.

In 2021, he was handed his first jail sentence in Hong Kong – https://sebelumnyaada.com 13 months – for participating in a banned vigil for the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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