December 26, 2023
HONG KONG – A panel of three national security judges at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Friday upheld the charge against former media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying on conspiracy to publish seditious publications, ruling that the legal time limit for prosecution had not expired.
The case will be adjourned next week and reconvened on Jan 2. Lai, along with three subsidiaries of Next Digital, the parent company of the now-defunct Apple Daily, will then formally enter their pleas, after which the prosecution will deliver their opening statement.
The court pointed out that as conspiracy is an offence that continues, the time limit for prosecution of the offence must be calculated from the final date of the conspiracy, which was June 24, 2021, the day that Apple Daily ceased publication.
The time limit for prosecuting the offense therefore does not expire until Dec 24, 2021, six months after June 24, the court said.
The prosecution filed the relevant charge by letter on Dec 13, 2021; the letter was received by the court the following day. The charge for the offense was entered 10 days before the time limit for prosecution was due to expire, and the court therefore has jurisdiction to hear the case.
Besides the charge of sedition, Lai also faces charges on three other counts — two of conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security, and one of colluding with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.
Lai’s trial on the four counts started on Monday and is expected to last for 80 days.
The maximum penalty for the three national security-related charges is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for the sedition charge is two years’ imprisonment.