December 11, 2020

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged under the city’s national security law on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security, local media reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.

Lai, an ardent critic of Beijing, would be the highest profile person charged under the sweeping new law imposed on the Chinese-ruled city in June.

The law has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent. Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing say it is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the city over the last year.

Hong Kong police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lai, 73, was denied bail earlier this month following his arrest on a separate charge of fraud related to the lease of a building that houses his Apple Daily, an anti-government tabloid.

Local media TVB and Cable TV said Lai had been charged with two offences while NOW TV said Lai’s charges stemmed from seeking sanctions against Hong Kong.

Lai had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.

News of the charges comes as authorities intensify a crackdown on opposition forces that has seen lawmakers dismissed and high-profile democracy activists such as Joshua Wong jailed.

(Reporting By Twinnie Siu; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Sam Holmes and Lincoln Feast.)

Public Affairs

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