HK judicial affairs interrupted as Jimmy Lai's case postponed
By Wang Qi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/5/18 23:53:40
The founder of Hong Kong-based anti-government and pro-separatist tabloid Apple Daily Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who is suspected of being the mastermind behind illegal assemblies and riots during the 2019-2020 political turmoil in Hong Kong, was released on bail after a court arraignment was postponed at Hong Kong's West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on Monday.
Analysts said due to pressure from foreign forces and local opposition groups, it would be hard for Hong Kong courts to sentence Lai and other anti-government and pro-separatist activists, and they will bring more harm to the city's public order.
Hong Kong media reported that prosecutors requested the case moved to June 15, and the case will be transferred to a district court. Hong Kong-based news portal website on.cc reported that the maximum penalty for Lai's charges is five years in prison. Cases against 14 other defendants were also postponed.
Lai, 72, regarded as a traitor and one of the instigators of the social unrest in Hong Kong in 2019, has been arrested for multiple times on different charges, including organizing and participating in unauthorized assemblies in August and October. He was one of the 15 riot leaders arrested by the Hong Kong police on April 18.
Lai would have been sentenced if he was just an ordinary Hong Kong resident. However, too many interests and politics are intertwined behind the mastermind of Hong Kong riots, which forces judges to think about it more, Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.
Tian believes Lai's case shows how Hong Kong's judicial independence has been interfered by external forces. He urged Hong Kong judges to stick to the rule of law.
"Hong Kong's future is gloomy if the court were to fall," Tian noted.
Before Monday's arraignment of Lai and 14 others, including Hong Kong barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming, at least 40 Hong Kong residents from six groups gathered outside the court with banners saying, "Punish the traitors severely, show judicial values," as reported by local news outlet hk.on.cc on Monday.
"We in Hong Kong urgently need the full support of the West and the US," Lai said in an article titled "A Call for Help" published in his Apple Daily on Sunday. "We are calling for your help."
"Jimmy Lai, Please don't use the word 'we' (all Hong Kong residents) to represent your gang," Leung Chun-ying, a former Hong Kong chief executive, posted on Facebook on Sunday.
The moral civilization of the Western countries is rapidly declining. Hong Kong people don't want moral values from the West, and neither do they want to be the bridgehead of the new cold war between the central government and Western countries [as claimed by Lai]… We refuse to let Western countries disrupt Hong Kong through people like Lai, Leung noted on his post.
Lai also pleaded for help from the West on Saturday during an interview on a TV program on the island of Taiwan, which analysts said "is just like an insane love confession between lovers." But Monday's decision implies Lai's undignified begging worked.
"I miss the CIA, I want the US, the UK, and foreign countries to influence (help) us. Their (external power) support is the only way for us to survive," Lai said.
Some analysts questioned the timing of the court arraignment on June 15. That means Lai could participate in illegal rallies very likely to take place in early June, the same month when protests against the now-withdrawn Extradition Bill started last year.
"It might cause a huge uproar in Hong Kong society amid the coronavirus epidemic," Tian said.
Lai recently noted in the Taiwan program that their demonstration in early June will be conducted differently. People might come to the streets once again amid the epidemic.
Lai once said in public to a US official that he is leading a war in Hong Kong for the US fight against the mainland government. "We are on your side sacrificing our lives, our freedom, everything we have, fighting this war in the frontier for you."
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a Monday briefing that Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs and any foreign government or individual has no right to interfere.
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