Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

The trial of tycoon Jimmy Lai has opened ; Hong Kong

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Tycoon Jimmy Lai is photographed in front of a copy of his newspaper Apple Daily

Agence France-Presse

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The trial of pro-democracy tycoon Jimmy Lai for “collusion with foreign forces”, where he risks life in prison, opened in Hong Kong on Monday after calls from Washington and London for his immediate release, rejected by China .

The British billionaire, whose first public appearance since 2021, arrived at the Hong Kong court on Monday wearing a costume, smiling and greeting his family members.

Representatives from the American, British, Australian and Canadian consulates were present in the court room.

Jimmy Lai, 76, is accused of “collusion with foreign forces among other offenses against national security.

He has already been imprisoned for three years under a radical national security law, imposed by Beijing in 2020, a year after the major pro-democracy demonstrations.

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The trial, which is scheduled to take place in open court over the next 80 days, is expected to assess the level of civil liberties in Hong Kong and the independence of the judiciary from Beijing.

A large security system was deployed around the court in front of which residents had waited all night in the cold to hope to attend.

Among them, Alexandra Wong, an activist better known as Grandma Wong, shouted: Support Apple Daily, support Jimmy Lai by waving the British flag, before being pulled away by the police.

The owner of the daily Apple Daily, closed in 2021, is one of the most famous figures of the movement pro-democracy.

His newspaper, a severe critic of Beijing, supported the major pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019 and called for international sanctions against Chinese and local authorities.

Interview with independent senator Pierre Dalphond.

His case sparked condemnation from the international community.

We urge the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong to respect press freedom in Hong Kong and immediately release Jimmy Lai and all others imprisoned for defending their rights, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Sunday.

For his part, the head of British diplomacy, David Cameron, declared that Jimmy Lai was targeted in an obvious attempt to prevent the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of expression. #x27;association.

Mr. Cameron said he was particularly concerned about the politically motivated prosecution of the former press boss, calling on the Hong Kong authorities to release Jimmy Lai.

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David Cameron is the head of British diplomacy.

Beijing described the American and British reactions as a blatant political maneuver.

The remarks of the United States and the United Kingdom on this matter constitute a serious violation of the spirit of the State of law and principles of international law […]. They constitute a blatant political maneuver, declared Monday Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This trial undermines confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong, for its part affirmed on Monday the European Union, which will closely follow the trial, which harms the attractiveness of the city as a as an international business center.

The dissident's son, Sebastien Lai, told AFP on Saturday after a meeting with David Cameron in London that the British minister had called this matter a priority and had discussed it with his counterpart Wang Yi, China's top diplomat. .

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Sebastien Lai is the son of Jimmy Lai.

Recently discovering photos in the press of his father appearing older and thinner in the courtyard of his prison, Sebastien Lai said he was heartbroken.

I have no illusions about the independence of the judicial system of Hong Kong.

A quote from Sebastien Lai, son of Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee assured the contrary on Monday that the city had a long tradition [of respect] for the rule of law, adding that he had complete confidence in the judiciary. to make a fair and independent decision.

Speaking in Beijing after a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, John Lee warned against any attempt to interfere in the legal proceedings. No one should attempt to do anything because of political motivations, he said.

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John Lee is the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai will be tried, without a jury, by three judges chosen by the leader of Hong Kong from a group of hand-picked magistrates.

His imprisonment since Hong Kong's highest court denied his release on bail in late 2020, marked a change in Hong Kong in terms of detention provisional.

Lai's lawyer, Mr Robert Pang, argued on Monday that the charge should be dropped on the grounds that Hong Kong's criminal law imposes a deadline for such prosecutions and that the government had waited too long.

Prosecutors are out of time, so the court has no jurisdiction, Pang said, making an argument that dominated Monday's hearing.

Since the national security law took effect in Hong Kong in 2020, rights advocates say it muzzled dissent and curtailed civil liberties.

According to Reporters Without Borders, more than 100 media executives from around the world co-signed a statement earlier this year calling for the release of Lai.

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