Hong Kong court rejects publisher Jimmy Lai's bid to terminate his national security trial

His lawyers earlier filed an application to halt the trial

Jimmy Lai Jimmy Lai | Reuters

Publisher Jimmy Lai's request to terminate his national security trial has been rejected by a Hong Kong court on Monday. Lai, the 75-year-old founder of the Apple Daily, faces up to life in prison if convicted under the Beijing-imposed national security law. 

Lai's trial is a landmark case seen as part of Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement. His lawyers earlier filed an application to halt the trial, raising concerns that his case was being heard by three judges approved by the city's leader, instead of a jury. 

Lai and his three enterprises, Apple Daily Limited, Apple Daily Printing Limited, and AD Internet Limited, face charges of three counts of national security legislation violations, including coordination with foreign forces. Lai, who is said to have been involved in pro-democracy protests, has also been charged with conspiracy to produce seditious periodicals in connection with Apple Daily. Apple Daily is defunct after Hong Kong police detained its personnel and authorities seized its assets in June 2021.

Lai, who had been detained for over two years, had pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to start in September. When Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, it was promised that trials by jury, previously practised in the former British colony, would be maintained under the city's constitution. But in a departure from the city's common law tradition, the security law allows no-jury trials for national security cases. 

After over a year of pro-democracy protests, China imposed the national security law in June 2020. Following this, those involved in the protests were detained and charged with secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs.  

– With PTI inputs 

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