Tycoon Jimmy Lai’s Hong Kong trial starts as US, UK urge his release

HONG KONG (AFP) — Pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai went on trial in Hong Kong Monday on national security charges that could see him jailed for life, with the United States and Britain demanding his release. Lai, 76, is accused of “collusion” with foreign forces under a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the finance hub in 2020. He is the founder of the now-shuttered Chinese-language tabloid Apple Daily, which often criticized Beijing and supported the huge protest movement that roiled Hong Kong in 2019. Courthouse News’ podcast Sidebar tackles the stories you need to know from the legal world. Join our hosts as they take you in and out of courtrooms in the U.S. and beyond. The trial, which will continue into the new year, is being closely watched as a barometer of Hong Kong’s political freedoms and judicial independence. A rags-to-riches millionaire who made his fortune selling clothes before expanding into media, Lai will be tried without a jury and has been denied his first choice of lawyer. Lai, who has rarely been seen publicly since 2021, appeared in court on Monday in a suit, looking thinner than in previous appearances. He smiled and waved at the gallery where his family sat. He is a British citizen and representatives from the U.S., British, Australian and Canadian consulates were present to observe the trial. His case has drawn widespread condemnation from the international community but Beijing has dismissed the criticism as smears and interference. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused the United States and Britain of double standards and described Lai as an “errand boy of anti-China forces.” “The United States’ and United Kingdom’s remarks on the case … are in serious violation of the spirit of the rule of law, and … they constitute blatant […]

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