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Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai ordered back to jail

Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai ordered back to jail

 Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai was ordered to return to jail on Thursday when the city's highest court granted prosecutors an appeal against his bail.

Lai, a vocal critic from Beijing, is one of the highest-profile figures indicted under a comprehensive security law that China imposed on the financial center in late June in an attempt to crack down on dissent.

The 73-year-old man served 20 days in custody before being released on bail last Wednesday under strict conditions including a 10 million Hong Kong dollar ($ 1.3 million) bail and delivery all travel documents.

He was placed under house arrest and banned from speaking in public, including on Twitter.

But the Final Appeal Court on Thursday granted the prosecution permission to appeal the bail decision, after they said a lower court judge may "have made a mistake in his interpretation or application" of Article 42 of the new legislation.

That article states that bail should not be granted unless the judge sees sufficient reason to believe that the defendant will not commit the alleged crime again.

"We have held that it is reasonably debatable that the judge's decision was erroneous and that his order admitting the defendant on bail was invalid," reads a determination issued by the Final Appeal Court.

He also granted the prosecution's request that Lai remain in custody pending the appeal, which will be heard on February 1.

Lai is accused of colluding with foreign countries by calling on overseas governments to sanction Hong Kong and China in response to the ongoing crackdown on pro-democracy activism in the city.

More than 1,000 of her tweets and a series of media interviews she gave have been examined by the prosecution.

Lai was the first defendant charged under security law to be granted bail, but prosecutors rushed to the higher court to request an appeal.

The Chinese party's main spokesman, People's Daily, had criticized the bail decision for "damaging Hong Kong's rule of law."

Lai also faces separate charges of fraud and joining illegal assemblies during the massive, often violent, pro-democracy protests of 2019.

On Tuesday, the mogul resigned as president and CEO of Next Digital Ltd, which owns the Apple Daily newspaper that he founded three decades ago.

Lai tendered his resignation "to spend more time taking care of his personal affairs," Bloomberg News reported, citing a statement from the media group.

China's authoritarian leaders guaranteed that Hong Kong would maintain key freedoms and autonomy after its 1997 handover by Britain, under a model dubbed "One Country, Two Systems."

But a historic retreat from that promise is taking place, in response to the unrest of recent years.

Since the imposition of the national security law, Beijing increasingly makes the decisions. Expressing certain opinions now can lead to a life prison sentence.

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