A Hong Kong court has extended bail to pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who is facing trial for alleged fraud and foreign collusion under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
The pro-democracy Apple Daily owner was transferred to the High Court on Wednesday for his bail hearing handled by Justice Alex Lee, who is one of the judges designated by Chief Executive Carrie Lam for managing national security cases.
According to local media, Lai had to pay a cash bail of HK$10 million and surrender his travel documents. He was banned from leaving Hong Kong and meeting foreign officials, as well as accepting media interviews and posting on social media.
Lai must also remain at his residence except when attending court hearings and reporting to the police, which he was required to do three times a week.
The 73-year-old had been in custody for over three weeks after he was first denied bail in a fraud case, with the magistrate stating that he was a flight risk. Lai was accused of violating land-lease terms along with two senior executives of Next Digital – Wong Wai-keung and Royston Chow.
The pro-democracy figure then faced additional charges under the national security law on December 11. The sweeping legislation – described as “draconian” by its critics – bans secession, subversion, colluding with foreign forces and terrorist acts.
Sources told local media that the prosecution pointed to Lai’s activity on Twitter, media interviews and his articles published in Apple Daily as evidence to show that he made multiple efforts to invite overseas governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China.
His next court appearance is scheduled for April 16 next year.
The prosecution of Lai, a British citizen, prompted the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to express “deep concerns,” while the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Lai’s charges to be dropped and an immediate release of the media mogul.
The city’s Department of Justice responded by saying it was “appalled” by such calls, adding the prosecutorial decisions in Hong Kong were independent and evidence-based.