Hong Kong Court Revokes Bail For Jimmy Lai After Deciding It Didn't Interpret Vague National Security Law Vaguely Enough

from the criminalizing-impolite-disagreement dept

The Chinese government has been showing its impatience over its impending takeover of Hong Kong. China agreed to allow Hong Kong to run under its own government until 2047, but the last couple of years have seen the Chinese government indicating its willingness to perpetually violate this agreement with the region.

As pro-democracy protests continue to rage against the Chinese machine, the Chinese government has begun forcing its will on Hong Kong residents. This has been greatly aided by complicit Hong Kong government legislators, who have basically agreed to all the Chinese government's demands. The latest attempt to undermine the will of the people came packaged in a "national security" law -- one that outlawed demonstrations against the Chinese government's early and uninvited interloping, threatening dissenters with a lifetime of imprisonment.

Since then, the Chinese government (again with the assistance of Hong Kong's supposedly-independent government) has been arresting and jailing prominent critics, along with dozens of other vocal protesters. One of the most famous arrestees is Jimmy Lai, a vociferously pro-democracy media tycoon -- one with the power and reach to do serious damage to the Chinese government's unwanted advances.

Lai was arrested under the new national security law last August. The Chinese government -- via its Hong Kong mouthpiece -- claimed Lai's pro-democracy agitation was an illegal "collusion" with "foreign governments." This vague assertion likely referred to Lai's visits with world leaders -- visits in which he expressed his displeasure with the Chinese government.

In late December, Lai was granted bail by a Hong Kong court, reversing its earlier denial. It came with very tight strings attached. Lai was placed on house arrest and, more importantly, forbidden from doing anything that might make the two governments engaged in his prosecution look bad.

[Lai was] banned from meeting officials from foreign governments, attending or hosting media interviews or programmes, publishing articles in any media, and posting messages or comments on social media, including Twitter.

He was also hit with a $10 million HKD fine ($1.3 million USD) and ordered to surrender all travel documents.

The government apparently felt this punishment wasn't heinous enough. Or, at the very least, unlikely to silence the outspoken government critic. It went back to the court and got the reversal reversed, putting Lai back behind bars. This time around, the court bought the government's national security arguments, relying on unexplored areas of the brand new law to deprive Lai of his very limited freedom.

In its determination, the court held that it was “reasonably arguable … that the learned judge may have erred in his construction or application” of Article 42(2) of the national security law, under which bail can only be granted to a criminal defendant if a judge has sufficient grounds to believe that the defendant will not commit acts endangering national security.

The new law apparently makes speaking out against the Chinese and Hong Kong governments a national security issue, even if it's nothing more than speaking out against the Chinese government's violation of an agreement it struck with the UK back in 1997. This is the problem with national security laws, no matter where they're deployed. A little imagination is all it takes to turn dissent into a threat and outspoken criticism into a criminal act. That's why there's so many of these laws in countries that thrive on punishing dissent. And that's why countries that are considered more "free" find them handy to have around, just in case.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: authoritarianism, china, democracy, hong kong, jimmy lai, national security


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 4:55am

    the Chinese and other governments wont be content under any stretch of the imagination. until then though, what they are after is total lockdown of every country, where the citizens have no say in anything, no rights at all and definitely no freedom! this mindset is spreading everywhere. those in charge want us basically as slaves. what they never see is that eventually they can be thrown out by others that manage to convince enough to follow them rather than the previous person or the masses manage to turn on the system itself. nothing ever stays the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 6:08am

    On the contrary, the law is quite clear.

    And simple. "We can lock you up for as long as we want if you do anything we don't like". I know it doesn't say that, but that's what it actually means. Humpty Dumpty law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Miss Herd, 5 Jan 2021 @ 8:46am

    Not 2047

    The Chinese Communist Party didn't say "We'll take over in 2047". They actually said "We'll take over 24/7"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2021 @ 7:16am

      Re: Not 2047

      "The Chinese Communist Party didn't say "We'll take over in 2047". They actually said "We'll take over 24/7""

      Actually what they said was;

      China: "Give back the land you stole from mainland China at gunpoint in the 18th century, right here and now"

      UK: "OK, but just so the current citizens of Hong Kong don't get too upset you need to guarantee they'll keep their current rights for a while."

      China: *"Tell you what, we'll pretend they can have fifty years of their own system. You'll pretend you believe that. Everyone walks away happy".

      UK: "Sounds fair to me. It's a deal".

      NO ONE at the time believed China would hold to the "one country, two systems" rule beyond the very first time HK's rights conflicted with the laws of mainland china. Least of all the UK, and plenty of british politicians said as much at the time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan, 5 Jan 2021 @ 8:54am

    China

    In all seriousness, China has no moral obligation to honor any agreement with the UK. Are you familiar with the Opium wars? Britain basically shipped tons of opium to china and forced the government to allow people to become addicts to fund England's lust for tea. They negotiated at the barrel of a gun. There is zero obligation for China to keep their agreement and the UK is not going to war over it, so what's CHina's motivation here? Nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 9:40am

    what a shame the UK doesn't stand up to be counted and actually do something about how China has backed out of the deal it had! it's also real strange how all this HK stuff happened around the same time as the Covid pandemic! i guess China wanted to make sure everywhere else was too busy trying to save their own citizens lives to worry about how the human rights violations had escalated in HK and the number of people being jailed and killed for trying to keep some sort of democracy! as for those officials in HK, they should be stood against a wall and shot! disgracefull way to treat your own people, just giving in to what another country wants to do, and all for your own engratiament!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2021 @ 7:21am

      Re:

      "what a shame the UK doesn't stand up to be counted..."

      Oh, the UK knew back when they made the treaty China wouldn't hold to it. Plenty of british politicians said as much at the time. It was just that the UK was politically unable to keep clinging to land they'd wrested a leasehold on at gunpoint in a government-backed drug war.

      I can imagine the chinese diplomat telling the british diplomat outright that the Sino-British Joint declaration wasn't worth the paper it was written on and the british diplomat replying that this was fine as long as China agreed to receive a strongly worded letter of protest from the UK once they broke the terms.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 5 Jan 2021 @ 3:36pm

    Love the USA designations.

    Anyone ever notice that the descriptions the USA gives to many countries, over the Forces in control, Dont match up with many REAL designations of what is the gov. run as?

    When a South American nation is socialist we call them dictators.
    When China Does its thing we call them Communists.
    When Saddam Husein, was trying to control 6 different groups of tribal Animosity in A Muslim country we called him an asshole and other NICE WORDS.
    Dont know what we call the socialist Northern EU nations.

    Would really like a book on USA definitions and translations of what other nations REALLY are.

    I have no reason to think China is Communist. Unless that the Nice word for what WE THINK they are.
    But, if you understand the Ultimate Capitalist Society, you might understand, "you are born, you goto work, you retire and DIE".
    Good luck with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Jan 2021 @ 5:02pm

      Re: Love the USA designations.

      Umm, maybe it's OK to call the Chinese regime communist because, well, you know, they call themselves communists?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Annonymouse, 6 Jan 2021 @ 5:19am

        Re: Re: Love the USA designations.

        Just because the weasle is wearing a chicken suit doesn't make it a chicken.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 7 Jan 2021 @ 7:36am

        Re: Re: Love the USA designations.

        "...maybe it's OK to call the Chinese regime communist because, well, you know, they call themselves communists?"

        Only in the same way it's OK to call you a martian if you insist you are one.

        China has never been communist. Ever. The only difference of China before and after Mao is that the bureaucratic oligarchy which had run the country unchanged for two and a half millennia figured they could do without the need to have a very expensive and inconvenient emperor as a figurehead.
        "Communism" is just a smokescreen in China.

        Go look at the chinese flag - two of the stars on it symbolizes capitalists and landowners faithful to the nation. That's as much of an oxymoron visavi communism as if Lenin had come out swinging in favor of the righteous billionaires.

        What China really is is a nation run by deeply entrenched bureaucrats who invented capitalism 2000 years before Adam Smith did and perfected it right alongside a system of autocracy designed to exert as much control over the population as possible while keeping some 90% of said population prosperous and happy.

        And it's worked. If you're ethnic Han chinese, willing to worship the state above all in public, and into education, then China is the promised land. If you're one of the other "unofficially approved" ethnicities, the same applies. The last 5% of the citizenry have the job of being scapegoats and serving as warning examples on how the state is "fair" but very, very strict.

        I'd argue that China is far more capitalist than the US, with every really successful businessman by necessity becoming a party official at some point, and every rule not costing the government face being bendable by the proper application of palm grease.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 5 Jan 2021 @ 3:41pm

    Darth Xi: I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tâm lý Việt Pháp (profile), 11 Jan 2021 @ 1:16am

    liệu pháp trị liệu tâm lý

    https://tamlyvietphap.vn/tri-lieu-tam-ly/lieu-phap-tri-lieu-tam-ly-dieu-tri-roi-loan-2459-44766-arti cle.html
    “Tâm lý trị liệu” là thuật ngữ chung dùng để mô tả quá trình điều trị các rối loạn tâm lý và những đau khổ về mặt tinh thần thông qua việc sử dụng lời nói và các kỹ thuật tâm lý. Trong suốt quá trình này, nhà trị liệu sẽ giúp đỡ thân chủ trong việc giải quyết một vấn đề cụ thể hoặc chung chung, như là một bệnh lý tâm thần hoặc những căng thẳng trong cuộc sống.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.