HONG KONG-The Supreme Court of Hong Kong ordered the democratic publishing tycoon Li Meiyi to be jailed again on Thursday, just a few days after he was released on bail. This is the latest twist in an ongoing, convoluted legal battle against one of the cities. The most prominent anti-government figure.
The fate of Mr. Lai, the most prominent figure accused by Hong Kong’s comprehensive new national security law, is regarded by some as a barometer of Hong Kong’s judicial independence. After being accused of colluding with “foreign forces”, including calling for sanctions on Hong Kong, Mr. Lai was refused bail earlier this month.
The official news media of the Chinese Communist Party criticized the lower court judge’s decision to grant bail, calling Lai Xiaolong (the founder of the pro-democratic tabloid Apple Daily) “notorious and extremely dangerous.” The state-owned store even increased the possibility that the Chinese courts would allow the case to be taken over under the National Security Law.
The Chinese government promulgated a security law in June to quell fierce anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a former British colony and was promised 50 years of civil liberties and relative autonomy when returning to China in 1997. Implicit subversion, secession, and conspiracy crimes, and give the authorities broad enforcement powers.
The hearing at the Court of Final Appeal has been closely watched, partly because this is the first time a case under the Security Law has been heard in the Supreme Court of Hong Kong.
This is also seen as a test of the core issue of the new law: whether the new law substantially prohibits bail for national security defendants, as Mr. Lai’s critics have argued. Some legal scholars worry that such a provision will violate the rights of the defendant. The law stipulates that unless the defendant no longer proves to pose a threat to national security, “bail shall not be granted”.
However, the decision of the Court of Final Appeal on Thursday was narrowly defined and could not provide solutions to these issues. The panel of three judges did not decide the standard for granting bail.
Instead, the judge only agreed to consider the issue at a hearing in February and then remand Mr. Lai in custody. The panel said that the government has raised “significant and universal issues” regarding the impact of security laws on bail.
The three judges on the panel are among the judges selected by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to hear national security cases. Since the CEO is selected by the committee in Beijing, Mrs. Lin’s selection of judges has drawn people’s attention to their impartiality.
But one of the panel judges, Chief Judge Geoffrey Ma (Geoffrey Ma), was outspoken in defending judicial independence.
Ms. Lin also chose the lower court judge Li Guo Justice who granted Mr. Lai bail. Judge Li wrote in his ruling that he believed that strict bail conditions would prevent Mr. Lai from committing his crime again.
Judge Li also said that the prosecutor had said that Li Lixian’s public statement proved that he had colluded with foreign forces, which seemed to be “comment and criticism” instead of asking for actual intervention in Hong Kong affairs.
Mr. Lai is scheduled to stand trial in April.