The trial of pro-democracy activist and publisher Jimmy Lai on national security charges has been postponed a second time to 25 September 2023 as the prosecution claimed it was waiting for a decision from Beijing on whether the Mr. Lai can have a British lawyer on his defence team.
Lai, the founder and chairperson of the now-closed newspaper Apple Daily, is charged with “colluding with foreign forces” and is the most prominent democracy campaigner to face trial under the National Security Law imposed by Beijing. He was arrested during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following widespread protests in 2019. The 75-year-old has been in prison since December 2020 and could face life in prison if found guilty. His media company, Next Digital, published the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. The publication was forced to close following the arrests of its top executives, editors and journalists in 2021. Lai’s legal team has asked the United Nations to investigate his imprisonment and multiple criminal charges as “legal harassment” to punish him for speaking out.
Hong Kong Watch has condemned the ongoing legal and political harassment against Jimmy Lai. It has called for his immediate and unconditional release. It stated “Hong Kong must pull the emergency brakes on the outrageous and unrelenting deterioration in judicial independence and the rule of law and guarantee that it will not transfer anyone to stand trial in Mainland China.”