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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai faces a trial without a jury

#Hong #Kong #media #tycoon #Jimmy #Lai #faces #trial #jury

Jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai will face a court without a jury when tried under a new national security law imposed by Beijing, AFP has learned.

Hong Kong Justice Minister Paul Lam has ordered the trial to be heard by three government-handpicked judges to hear national security cases in a move away from the city’s tradition of trials.

A copy of the order seen by AFP cites the “involvement of foreign elements” in the case, the “personal safety of the jury and their families” and the “risk of distorting the course of justice if the trial is conducted with one.” Jury”.

Trials by jury have been used by Hong Kong’s common law legal system for 177 years, but legislation imposed by China in 2020 to stem dissent allows cases to be heard by dedicated national security judges.

So far, authorities have refused jury trials in all three major cases that have made it to the High Court, where defendants face life imprisonment.

Lai, 74, is one of Hong Kong’s best-known democracy activists and openly despised by Beijing.

For years, his tabloid Apple Daily was outspoken in its scathing criticism of the Chinese Communist Party and pro-democracy.

It collapsed last year after its funds were frozen under the new security law and many of its senior staff, including Lai, were charged with “collaborating with foreign forces,” one of the new national security crimes.

On Monday, prosecutor Anthony Chau told the court that six Apple Daily executives have indicated they intend to plead guilty.

A guilty plea usually entitles the accused to a reduced sentence.

Two other activists linked to the case have already pleaded guilty and have been convicted on the same charges.

Lai, who is currently serving a sentence related to protests, plans to plead not guilty, meaning a full trial is expected late this year or early next year, the court heard.

Last week, AFP reported that the largest national security trial to date – that of 47 prominent democracy activists – will also be tried without a jury, citing a similar order from the Justice Department.

China says its security law has restored stability after large and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests rocked Hong Kong in 2019.

Critics say it has criminalized dissent and eroded Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Last month, a UN watchdog said the security law’s “overly broad interpretation and arbitrary application” had led to a deterioration in freedoms and called for the law to be repealed.

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