A Hong Kong court has again adjourned the return day for media tycoon Jimmy Lai and six other former staff members of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily and its parent company Next Digital. The seven defendants will next appear in court to hear procedures for the case to be transferred to the High Court on March 10.

The defendants, all of whom are remanded in custody, were not present in front of Acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday as the Correctional Services Department imposed a “cell lockdown” last week because of the city’s Covid-19 outbreak, effectively barring all detainees from attending court hearings. They were represented by their lawyers.

Apple Daily
Apple Daily headquarters. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The group also included former CEO of Next Digital, Cheung Kim-hung, Apple Daily’s former editor-in-chief Ryan Lawformer associate publisher Chan Pui-man, former executive editor-in-chief Lam Man-chung, ex-editor-in-chief of the English news section Fung Wai-kong, and ex-editorial writer Yeung Ching-kee.

Three companies, Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited, were also indicted in the case.

The defendants were accused of violating the Beijing-imposed national security law by allegedly conspiring to commit collusion with foreign powers. They were also charged under the colonial-era sedition law over alleged seditious publications.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts.
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Lai was charged in December 2020 and is currently serving prison terms for other protest-related charges. Cheung and Law were charged and taken into custody in June last year, while the remaining four defendants were charged and remanded a month later.

On Thursday, Law set March 10 as the defendants’ return day, the fifth return day for Lai, and the fourth for other defendants.

Under reporting restrictions on committal proceedings, written and broadcast reports are limited to only including the name of the defendants, magistrates, and lawyers, the alleged offence, the court’s decision, whether legal aid was granted, and future court dates.

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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.