Businessman Jimmy Lai was arrested on the morning of December 3, 2020, as AsiaNews reported the same day, and Judge Victor So Wai-tak refused his bail. He spent Christmas in prison.
Born in Canton on December 8, 1948, Jimmy Lai is the founder of Next Digital, a publishing house that produces the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, known for its criticism of the leadership in Beijing and Hong Kong, according to the Italian agency of Foreign Missions.
On the evening of December 2, Lai and two of his close associates, Royston Chow Tat-kuen and Wong Wai-keung, were charged with fraud. The next morning, at a court appearance in West Kowloon, the judge decided on provisional detention for Lai until his trial on April 16, 2021, and bail for Chow and Wong.
If Jimmy Lai is convicted of fraud, he faces up to 14 years in prison, and in the case of a national security crime, he faces life imprisonment.
The three men had already been arrested on August 10, along with two of Lai’s sons, during a spectacular police operation, with the invasion of Apple Daily headquarters by more than 200 police officers in search of “evidence” of violations of new Chinese national security law.
The People’s Republic of China allows itself under this law, which came into force on July 1, 2020, to establish police units in Hong Kong and to punish acts of “secession, subversion or terrorism.” De facto, Beijing has thus freed itself from the “one country, two systems” principle, which was to last until 2047, in accordance with the rule accepted during the turnover of the island by the British.
Jimmy Lai, who defends democracy in Hong Kong, is suspected of “collusion with foreign forces against his homeland.” He and his sons were then released on bail, pending trial.
Three young activists, figures of the pro-democracy protest, Ivan Lam (26), Agnes Chow (23), and Joshua Wong (24), were also sentenced on December 2. Their sentences are respectively 7, 10, and 13 months in prison for having participated in demonstrations in favor of democracy. More than 10,000 people have been arrested in recent months.
Jimmy Lai, 73, arrived in Hong Kong at the age of 12 as a stowaway from China. He started working in packaging and then in publishing. He converted to Catholicism and, the day after Hong Kong’s handover to China, he was baptized on July 7, 1997 by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, then Bishop of Hong Kong.