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Trial of HK Media Magnate Jimmy Lai Starts

The trial of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, who has been in prison since 2020 over charges of colluding with “foreign forces”, began on Monday and if found guilty, the 76-year-old could face life imprisonment.

Lai, a UK citizen, was arrested under the National Security Law (NSL), introduced by China in 2020 in response to massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, insisting that the law was necessary to quell unrest.

China considers Lai a traitor who sought to undermine its national security, the BBC reported.

According to the media mogul’s legal team, he has been denied his choice of legal representation, after Beijing barred him from appointing a UK lawyer.

He is being tried by three judges handpicked by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, the team added.

Lai, an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, is one of the most high-profile people to be arrested under the NSL.

Before he was detained, he was often at the frontline of pro-democracy protests, such as the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the 2019 demonstrations against an extradition bill.

He founded and ran some of Hong Kong’s best-known media outlets, including the now-defunct newspaper Apple Daily.

Lai is also facing a sedition charge under a colonial-era law based on his tweets, interviews he hosted, as well as articles published in Apple Daily, the BBC reported.

Since he is a British citizen, his son Sebastian Lai has been lobbying the UK government to intervene on his father’s behalf.

Sebastian Lai also met UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron earlier this month.

On Sunday while calling for Jimmy Lai’s release, Cameron said: “I am gravely concerned that anyone is facing prosecution under the National Security Law, and particularly concerned at the politically motivated prosecution of British national Jimmy Lai.

“As a prominent and outspoken journalist and publisher, Jimmy Lai has been targeted in a clear attempt to stop the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association.”

Since his arrest in August 2020, Lai has been held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison for more than 1,000 days.

The trial, which has been delayed for a year, is expected to last for about 80 days.

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