Hong Kong court rejects bid to drop sedition charge against Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong court rejects bid to drop sedition charge against Jimmy Lai
Hong Kong court rejects bid to drop sedition charge against Jimmy Lai

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A prison van that is believed to carry media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, leaves the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on the day of the national security trial, in Hong Kong December 18, 2023. ― Reuters pic

HONG KONG, Dec 22 ― A Hong Kong court today rejected a bid by the legal team for pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai to have sedition charge against him dropped, in a closely watched national security trial.

Lai, 76, the founder of now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, was charged with conspiracy to publish seditious publications under a colonial-era sedition law.

Lai's lawyer Robert Pang had argued that the sedition charge should be dismissed, as the prosecution failed to lay the charge within six months of the alleged offence. Pang pointed out that Lai was only taken to court and officially charged on December 28, 2021 ― four days after the deadline.


The three government appointed judges in the trial ― Esther Toh, Susana D'Almada Remedios and Alex Lee ― said a time limit did not apply as the conspiracy was “a continuing offence and therefore the time limitation did not start to run until after the last date of the alleged conspiracy”.

“The court ruled that the prosecution of the sedition charge against the defendants was not time-barred,” the judges said in a summary of their judgement. “Therefore, the Court had jurisdiction to try the defendants on the sedition charge.”

According to the prosecution, Lai and Apple Daily published a total of 161 seditious articles between April 1, 2019 and June 24, 2021 ― until the newspaper ceased publication following a police raid, a freeze on its assets and arrests of former staff crippled its operations.


Besides the sedition charge, Lai also faces two conspiracies to collude with foreign forces charges ― including calling for sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials ― under a China-imposed national security law which could see him jailed for life. Lai has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

After being detained for over 1,000 days, Lai's trial finally kicked off earlier this month amid mounting diplomatic pressure. The British and US governments have called for Lai's immediate release and said the trial is politically motivated.

The trial comes as the city prepares to enact a new round of national security laws next year known as Article 23 that will further tighten China's grip, and include counter-espionage legislation that could strengthen official control over foreign institutions.

The trial has been adjourned to January 2 and it is expected to last 80 days. ― Reuters

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