Prosecutors will ask Hong Kong’s highest court on Thursday to order pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai back to prison pending trial, after Chinese state media fiercely criticised the original decision to grant him bail and suggested he should be tried on the mainland.

The appeal against bail will be heard at Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. The Apple Daily proprietor is facing trial for alleged fraud and violation of the Beijing-imposed national security law by colluding with foreign forces.

Jimmy Lai
Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai returned home after the court granted him bail on last Wednesday.

The security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in June allows for some cases to be transferred to Chinese jurisdiction. Hong Kong has retained a separate legal system since its handover to China in 1997.

People’s Daily, newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, questioned whether Hong Kong courts had “juristiction difficulty” and said the High Court’s decision on December 23 to grant bail to Lai, 73, had been “inconceivable.” Prosecutors have appealed against that decision.

“Lai is notorious and extremely dangerous, yet he became the first suspect to be granted bail after being arrested for violating the national security law, which is inconceivable,” the article read.

“After the implementation of the national security law in Hong Kong, if people like Lai who stirs up trouble in Hong Kong can be bailed out, who else wouldn’t be?”

The People’s Daily urged the Hong Kong court to “make the right decision” after Hong Kong’s Justice Department filed its appeal against Lai’s bail.

National security law
Photo: GovHK.

Lai was granted bail in the sum of HK$10 million on condition that he stay in his home and avoid giving interviews or making posts on social media. He had to surrender his passport.

Police have set up a roadblock outside the media tycoon’s residence at Kadoorie Hill in Ho Man Tin district. According to Apple Daily, drivers passing the area were asked to open their car boots for inspection.

Lai is accused of violating land-lease terms along with two senior executives of his parent company Next Digital, Wong Wai-keung and Royston Chow. He was arrested in August in a high-profile raid on the newsroom of Apple Daily.

On December 11 Lai was charged with violating the national security law. The sweeping legislation – described as “draconian” by its critics – bans secession, subversion, colluding with foreign forces and terrorist acts and offences are punishable by up to life imprisonment.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former British governor of Hong Kong Lord Chris Patten are among those who have called for his release.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.