Hong Kong, June 15 (ANI): Imprisoned Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai will stand trial in the High Court, where the maximum sentence is life in prison, for allegedly breaching the national security law by colluding with the foreign forces.
Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak on Tuesday ordered Lai to return to West Kowloon Court on July 27 for committal proceedings to transfer his case to the higher Court of First Instance for trial, upon the prosecutors' request, reported South China Morning Post (SCMP).
Under the draconian national security law introduced last year, foreign collusion is punishable for three to ten years of imprisonment, while a grave offense carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Lai, the 73-year-old founder of Next Digital, faces three charges in the national security case, colluding with foreign forces, conspiracy to collude with foreign forces, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Prosecutors have alleged that Lai used his social media platform and the Apple Daily newspaper and conspired with Mark Simon, an American who was Lai's right-hand man and others to call for foreign sanctions, SCMP reported.
Lai was also accused of conspiring with his legal assistant Chan Tsz-wah, a legal assistant and activist Andy Li Yu-hin to arrange the latter's escape from China between July and August last year.
Lai pleaded guilty to one crime of organising unapproved assembly in the 2019 anti-government protests, was sentenced to 14 months in prison last month, along with nine others who were sentenced between 14-36 months by the Hong Kong District Court.
Before that, Hong Kong authorities have frozen nearly HKD 500 million of imprisoned media tycoon Jimmy Lai's assets under the draconian national security law.
Issuing a statement on May 14, the Hong Kong government announced that the secretary for security had ordered Lai's shares in the Next Digital media company to be frozen, along with assets in the local bank accounts of three companies he owned.
Andy Li was among 12 Hong Kong fugitives detained in mainland China last year after the Chinese coastguard intercepted them as they tried to flee to Taiwan. The activist has been charged with conspiracy to assist offenders, conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces under the national security law, and possession of ammunition without a license.
Meanwhile, Chan has also been accused of conspiring with others to request that foreign countries impose sanctions or a blockade, or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or the mainland.