Hong Kong Court Issues Travel Ban to Pro-Democracy Media Tycoon


2020-05-05
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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai speaks to reporters outside police headquarters, Feb. 28, 2020.
Reuters

A Hong Kong court on Tuesday slapped a travel ban on pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who is awaiting trial on charges of taking part in an "illegal assembly" during last year's protests, as well as allegations of "intimidation."

Lai appeared in court alongside veteran democrats Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum, and was ordered not to leave Hong Kong.

Lai, Lee, and Yeung were among 15 prominent pro-democracy figures to be arrested last month for taking part in protests last year. They will stand trial for the "illegal assembly" charges as a group on May 18, while Lai will face trial for "intimidation" on Aug. 19, magistrate Peter Law ruled on Tuesday.

Lai was released on bail, ordered not to leave Hong Kong, and told to report to a police station once a week.

The group were arrested in a coordinated raid on April 18, just days after Beijing dismissed a clause in the city's Basic Law proscribing Chinese government departments from interfering in the city's daily life.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party's liaison office in Hong Kong has since made a series of criticisms of "foreign interference" in the city's political life, including hitting out at a recent report from the U.S.-based NGO the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Supporting autonomy, rule of law

In an April 23 report, the NDI called on Beijing to refrain from further undermining the "high degree of autonomy" promised to Hong Kong, and on the Hong Kong government to "resist Beijing’s interference into Hong Kong’s autonomy and rule of law, and restart the process of democratic reform."

It said leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong should "acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the Hong Kong people about the erosion of their rights and the lack of progress on political reform."

It also called on the Hong Kong government to set up an independent statutory commission to investigate widespread allegations of excessive use of force by police during the protest movement.

Beijing's Central Liaison Office hit out at the NDI for "interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs."

"Such remarks are ridiculous and arrogant," a spokesman said in a statement on the office's official website. "No other country has the right to interfere."

"The erroneous remarks of these politicians seriously violates international law and the basic norms of international relations, and are another example of the brutal interference by foreign forces in Hong Kong's affairs and China's internal affairs," the spokesman said.

Yeung, also out on bail along with Lee, told journalists outside the court that people should keep on fighting to protect the rights and freedoms that Beijing promised to preserve under the terms of the 1997 handover agreement.

"I call upon the Hong Kong people to stand firm, and to stand [up] for their civil rights, political rights, and legal rights," Yeung said in comments reported by government broadcaster RTHK.

Reported by Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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