Jimmy Lai: Hong Kong tycoon and democracy campaigner returns to jail after bail revoked

A Hong Kong media tycoon and democracy campaigner is returning to jail after the territory’s highest court accepted prosecutors’ demands to revoke his bail.

Jimmy Lai is charged with colluding with foreign elements to endanger national security, apparently for tweets he made and interviews or commentaries he gave to foreign media.

Mr Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, was charged earlier this month over fraud allegations.

He was accused of violating the lease terms for office space for Next Digital, his media company.

Later, he was charged for alleged offences under the semi-autonomous Chinese territory’s new national security law before being released on bail last week.

But on Thursday, Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal said it was “reasonably arguable” that the previous judge’s decision was erroneous and that the order of granting bail was invalid.

The businessman is one of several prominent pro-democracy activists and supporters arrested by Hong Kong police in recent months as authorities step up their crackdown on dissent.

Earlier this month, prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed for 13 and a half months over an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019.

Mr Lai, whose age is given in different reports as between 72 and 76, said nothing to reporters as he entered court.

Under the terms of his bail, he had handed over his passport, as well as agreeing not to meet foreign officials, publish articles on any media, post on social media or give interviews.

His appeal hearing is scheduled for 1 February.

Beijing imposed the sweeping new law on 30 June, drawing condemnation from the West and prompting several countries, including Britain, Australia and Canada, to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.

The legislation punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Critics say it undermines freedoms enshrined in the “one state, two systems” plan China agreed to follow when taking control of the former British colony in 1997, but supporters believes it brings much-needed stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.

On Tuesday, Mr Lai resigned as chairman and executive director of Next Digital, which runs the Apple Daily newspaper, according to a filing made to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

He did so “to spend more time dealing with this personal affairs” and confirmed that he had no disagreement with the board of directors, the filing said.

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