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Jimmy Lai pleads not guilty to violations of Hong Kong National Security Law

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty to violating Hong Kong's National Security Law Tuesday. File Photo by Vernon Yue/EPA-EFE
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty to violating Hong Kong's National Security Law Tuesday. File Photo by Vernon Yue/EPA-EFE

Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Wealthy Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of violating Beijing's National Security Law.

Lai, who owned the former publication Apple Daily, appeared in West Kowloon Court as he formally entered the plea as prosecutors called him a "radical political figure" who used Hong Kong's 2019 pro-democracy protests as an opportunity to take hostile actions against mainland China in support of at least eight foreign powers, including the United States,

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"Since June 2019, under the guise of the fight for freedom and democracy, [Lai] had on multiple occasions engaged in multiple requests to foreign countries, in particular the [United States], to impose sanctions, blockade or [engage in] other hostile activities against [mainland China] and [Hong Kong]," Chau said.

Lai, 76, faces life in prison if he is found guilty on the three charges of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security and an additional count of seditious publications.

Judges on Tuesday also rejected a request for "clarification" of an earlier ruling that dismissed a request to dismiss the sedition charge.

Lai is arguably the most prominent figure to be charged under the controversial Security Law, which Beijing imposed upon Hong Kong after mass pro-democracy protests rocked the former British colony in 2019.

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The law has been widely condemned in the United States and much of Western Europe. The law has forced many Hong Kong pro-democracy activists and politicians to flee overseas to escape prosecution.

In turn, Hong Kong authorities have issued bounties and arrest warrants for 13 self-exiled activists.

Authorities have held Lai, a British citizen, in solitary confinement since December 2020 when he was arrested. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has called for Lai's release. Lai is a British citizen.

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