HONG KONG – Jimmy Lai, a publishing magnate and prominent critic of the Communist Party of China, has been charged with colluding with foreign forces under the Hong Kong National Security Act, police said on Friday, as Beijing stepped up efforts to stifle supporters of the city. Democracy Movement.
Mr. Lai is the most famous person to be formally charged under the Security Act. If convicted, he may face life in prison.
Mr. Lai, 73, was arrested in August on suspicion of violating the Comprehensive Security Act, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June. The police too The headquarters of Mr. Lai’s newspaper, Apple Daily, was raided, One of the last remaining anti-Beijing publications in the city.
Mr Lai has pushed other countries to punish China for its erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. He traveled to the United States last year Meet the officials Including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He called for sanctions against Chinese officials.
It is not clear what the police say he did specifically to breach the Security Act. As written, the law is not supposed to be retroactive. Since Mr. Lai has imposed He said He would be more careful about his words.
More than twenty others were arrested under this procedure. Tony Chung, 19, an activist who was also charged under the law, was convicted Friday of desecrating the Chinese national flag and taking part in an illegal gathering last year. A separate trial on charges under the NSA trial remains pending.
Mr. Lai was already in prison after that Deny them bail on unrelated fraud charges, A decision that is appealed. But because of the charge under the National Security Law, which grants authorities broad powers to hold suspects without bail, he is unlikely to be released.
The law is also changing Mr. Lai’s legal landscape. The accused could be tried in mainland China, where the legal system is noticeably more opaque than in Hong Kong.
Even if Mr. Lai is tried in Hong Kong, the Security Act empowers the chief executive of the city, chosen by Beijing, to appoint special judges, and the trial can be held behind closed doors.
Police said Mr. Lai will appear in court on Saturday.
Mr Lai and his newspaper, Apple Daily, have been vocal supporters of the anti-government protests that have engulfed Hong Kong for months last year and pose the most serious challenge to Beijing’s rule of the territory in decades.
Mr. Lai’s activity made him a frequent target of the Chinese Communist Party, which he denounced officially and through pro-Beijing newspapers in Hong Kong.
“By publicly colluding with outside powers to endanger national security, Jimmy Lai and a small handful of other anti-China rioters in Hong Kong have intentionally undermined Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability, and the basic well-being of its citizens,” a China spokesman said. Hong Kong’s Foreign Ministry Commissioner said in a statement in August.
The pro-democracy protests this year were quelled by social distancing rules, aggressive police tactics and a new security law. Last month, Beijing dealt a blow to the last remaining places of political opposition in Hong Kong when it allowed the removal of four pro-democracy lawmakers from the city’s legislature.
The pro-democracy camp protested the move with the collective resignation of the legislature.