Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai has resigned from his media company “to spend more time dealing with his personal affairs,” Next Digital announced on Tuesday.

Lai was charged with allegedly violating the national security law on December 11. He was granted bail last Wednesday, but is set to face an appeal at the Court of Final Appeal on Thursday.

Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The 73-year-old is also facing a charge connected to alleged violations of land-lease terms along with two senior executives at Next Digital.

In 1995, Lai founded Apple Daily, which purported to be “the most outspoken pro-democracy media” in Hong Kong. Its newsroom was raided in August by over 100 police officers following Lai’s arrest.

Following his resignation as the chair of the board and the executive director of Next Digital, Ip Yut-kin – former publisher of Apple Daily – will take on Lai’s role as chairperson.

Bail judgement

The High Court also released the judgement on Lai’s bail on Wednesday, after it refused the Department of Justice’s application to keep Lai detained while the appeal on his bail was pending.

Justice Alex Lee said that Lai’s risk of absconding could be minimised by “imposing suitably stringent conditions.” He added that he considered Lai to be “a person rooted in Hong Kong” with his family and business in the city.

Apple Daily
A banner inside Apple Daily’s office reading “All colleagues, thank you for your hard work!” Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lee also said that he had sufficient grounds to believe that Lai would not re-offend as Lai agreed to remain in his residence during the bail period, along with other conditions including not posting on social media or accepting interviews. He added that Lai’s alleged invitations for foreign interference appeared to be more like “comments and criticisms,” despite some people perhaps finding them offensive.

He quoted Lai’s lawyer that “one more post, and the Applicant (Lai) will be back in jail custody.”

Lai was granted bail on the condition of not leaving his residence except for attending court hearings and reporting to the police three times a week.

He was also asked to pay a cash bail of HK$10 million. Lai was also banned from meeting foreign officials, attending interviews, publishing articles and posting on social media.

Correction 31/12: This article was corrected to state that Apple Daily was founded in 1995.

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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.