Hong Kong: Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, accused under the national security law for one year, faces a life sentence

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) details the six ongoing procedures against Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, who exactly one year ago was accused of national security crimes for which he risks up to a life sentence.


Update - 28th December 2021

Jimmy Lai was additionally charged with alleged conspiracy to print, publish, sell and distribute "seditious publications" between the period of April 2019 and 24th June, 2021, the crime that bears a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Update - 20th December 2021 

Jimmy Lai was found not guilty of “criminal intimidation”, under which he was accused of verbally threatening a reporter with the pro-Beijing Oriental Daily media group.


Jimmy Lai , 73, founder of Next Digital media group and its now defunct flagship newspaper , Apple Daily, was arrested on 10th of August, 2020 under the accusation of “collusion with foreign forces” following the Chinese regime's imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong and later released on bail. Lai, who was arrested again in December, currently serves a 20-month prison sentence for “organizing” and “taking part” in three “unauthorized” pro-democracy protests in 2019 and risks a life sentence under six other procedures. 

"The relentless harassment against Jimmy Lai, a symbolic figure of press freedom in Hong Kong, has not diminished since the forced closure of the media he founded and reflects the Chinese regime's determination to permanently bury freedom of the press in Hong Kong", says director of RSF's East Asia office, Cédric Alviani, who calls for “all charges against the defendant to be dropped and to immediately release him and all other detained journalists and press freedom defenders”. 

Six ongoing procedures

1 - “Conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” 

  • Maximum Penalty: Life imprisonment (under the China-imposed National Security Law)
  • Reason: Allegedly conspired to request foreign countries to impose sanctions on Hong Kong
  • Next hearing: October 12th 2021

2 - “Colluding with foreign forces”

  • Maximum Penalty: Life imprisonment (under China-imposed National Security Law)
  • Reason: Allegedly called on foreign country to impose sanctions on Hong Kong
  • Next hearing: October 12th 2021

3 - “Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

  • Maximum Penalty: Life imprisonment
  • Reason: Allegedly helped a Hong Kong activist flee to Taiwan
  • Next hearing: October 12th 2021

4 - “Fraud”

  • Maximum Penalty: 14 years in prison
  • Reason: Allegedly violated the land-lease agreement of the Apple Daily headquarters
  • Next hearing: December 21st 2021

5 - “Inciting others to take part in unauthorized assembly”

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Allegedly promoted a pro-democracy protest on June 4th 2020
  • Next hearing: October 13th 2021

6 - “Criminal intimidation”

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Allegedly intimidated an Oriental Daily reporter on June 4th, 2017
  • Next hearing: October 29th 2021 

RSF submitted two urgent appeals urging the United Nations to “take all measures necessary” to safeguard press freedom in Hong Kong and to obtain the immediate release of Jimmy Lai, to whom the NGO awarded an RSF Press Freedom Award in 2020.

Since August 2020, at least twelve Hong Kong's journalists and press freedom defenders have been arrested under China-imposed National Security Law, nine are currently detained and are facing life sentences. This regulation also justified, at the end of June, 2021 the freezing of Apple Daily's financial assets, hence forced to cease all its activity.

Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index . The People's Republic of China, the world's largest captor of journalists with at least 125 detained, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.

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Updated on 30.12.2021