Hong Kong newspaper owner Jimmy Lai has been denied bail over claims he 'colluded with foreign powers' as he is frogmarched to court in chains.
Lai, who founded the Apple Daily tabloid, was charged on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security, TVB reported Friday.
He is the most high-profile person out of more than two dozen charged under the sweeping law since it was imposed by Beijing in June.
Police said in a statement they arrested a 73-year-old man under the national security law, but did not name him. Lai was arrested in August.
He and two executives of Next Digital - the firm that operates Apple Daily - were later charged with fraud over accusations they violated lease terms on office space.
He was denied bail earlier this month and was pictured yesterday being put in a prison van on the way to court.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quick to offer his support for Lai, tweeting: 'Hong Kong’s National Security Law makes a mockery of justice. [Jimmy Lai's] only “crime” is speaking the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarianism and fear of freedom. Charges should be dropped and he should be released immediately.'
When asked for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' reaction to Lai's charges under the national security law, spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated the UN chief's 'concern about the shrinking civic space in many places around the world'.
Beijing imposed the national security law in response to protests in Hong Kong that began in June 2019 over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for greater democracy in the former British colony.
Hong Kong’s National Security Law makes a mockery of justice. @JimmyLaiApple’s only “crime” is speaking the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarianism and fear of freedom. Charges should be dropped and he should be released immediately.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 12, 2020
The legislation outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces to intervene in Hong Kong's internal affairs.
In certain cases, those charged under the national security law could also face trial in mainland China, where the legal system is highly opaque.
The broad legislation prompted more public protests and led to complaints that Beijing is violating the autonomy promised to Hong Kong when was handed over to China from Britain in 1997.
Critics have said the law is also damaging Hong Kong's status as a business centre.
Apple Daily criticised the law on its front page on July 1, calling it the 'final nail in the coffin' of the territory's autonomy.
Lai has advocated for other countries to take a harsher stance on China, and last year he traveled to the US to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the proposed extradition bill.
He was also arrested in February and April on charges of taking part in unauthorised protests.
He also faces charges of joining an unauthorised vigil marking the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.