Hong Kong Tycoon Jimmy Lai Pleads Not Guilty In National Security Trial

Lai is facing a litany of charges under a Beijing-imposed national security law (File)

Hong Kong:

Jailed pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty in a Hong Kong court to “sedition” and “collusion” charges on Tuesday, as his trial under a national security law continued into the new year.

The charges against Lai — founder of the now-shuttered popular Chinese-language tabloid Apple Daily — revolve around the newspaper’s publications, which supported pro-democracy protests and criticised Beijing’s leadership. 

Lai, 76, is also accused of “collusion” for calling for international sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials. 

“Not guilty,” Lai said in English for each of the three charges read out.

Wearing a white shirt and a navy blue jacket, the septuagenarian was surrounded by three prison guards in the defendant’s dock. 

He wore headphones to help him hear the trial more clearly, according to his lawyer.

Lai was originally charged with one count of “conspiracy to produce seditious publications”, two counts of “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security” and one count of “collusion”. 

The latter two offences carry up to life in jail under the security law Beijing imposed in 2020 to quell dissent after the huge democracy protests the year before.

Prosecutors on Tuesday told the court they will not pursue the standalone “collusion” charge as it formed part of Lai’s “conspiracy to collusion” charge. 

Accusations that Lai colluded with foreigners went into overdrive in state media in 2019, after he had a meeting with then-vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of state Mike Pompeo. 

Other defendants in the case include three Apple Daily companies that have been taken over by the Hong Kong government, six former executives of the newspaper, and two young activists related to an advocacy group called Stand With Hong Kong Fight For Freedom (SWHK). 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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