‘Odd’ decision by Hong Kong’s top court to send Jimmy Lai back to jail perplexes bar association

Published (HKT): 2021.01.01 20:09

The reasons given by Hong Kong’s top court to justify sending Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai back to jail were “odd,” with the three hand-picked judges failing to consider key issues such as the strength of the prosecution’s case, the city’s bar association said.

There are multiple considerations when it comes to releasing a defendant on bail, including whether the prosecution’s case is strong or weak, whether the person will likely abscond, interfere with witnesses or destroy evidence, said Anita Yip, vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Bar Association.

“These are all considered factors, but the judges did not take them into account,” she said.

The Court of Final Appeal on Thursday ruled that the government’s appeal against Lai’s bail was valid and could proceed to a full hearing on Feb.1. The court also issued a temporary detention order, sending the 73-year-old pro-democracy publisher back into custody until then.

The three-judge panel suggested that the decision to let him out on bail was “wrongfully based” on a misinterpretation of the national security law, in particular Article 42, which specifies that “no bail shall be given to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds to believe that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts that endanger national security.”

Lai had been released on bail of HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) pending trial on charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and collusion with foreign elements – the latter, a crime under the recently implemented national security law that is punishable by up to life imprisonment.

In addition to the whopping bail amount, Lai had also been set some of the harshest terms ever seen in Hong Kong: He was barred from meeting foreign officials, using social media, taking media interviews or leaving his home.

In a dramatic twist on Christmas Eve, the Department of Justice filed an urgent submission for a hearing in a bid to overturn the bail.

After the decision was made on Thursday, pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao newspaper, which has criticized the courts for favoring pro-democracy activists, praised the Court of Final Appeal on Friday for “not disappointing the public.”

Lai’s wife and daughter visited him in the morning, bringing snacks such as beef jerky, chocolate and nuts. As they left the holding center, his daughter told Apple Daily that Lai was in good spirits and the bedding and clothing provided by were adequate to keep him from the cold.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, appeared at the holding center to visit Lai in the afternoon, giving his blessing to the incarcerated publisher – a prominent Catholic.

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