News

March 31, 2021 - Updated on April 1, 2021

Hong Kong: the judicial ordeal of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai

PHOTO: PETER PARKS / AFP
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) details the seven ongoing procedures against Apple Daily founder and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate Jimmy Lai, detained for almost four months in Hong Kong and risking a life sentence.

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Update - 1st April 2021


Jimmy Lai has been found guilty of “organising and participating in unauthorised assembly” on 18th August 2019. Sentencing to be delivered at a later date. 

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Jimmy Lai, 73, founder of Next Digital media group and its flagship newspaper, Apple Daily, and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate, was one of the first Hong Kong residents charged under the National Security Law adopted by Beijing and has been detained since December 2020. Jimmy Lai has been constantly harassed by the Hong Kong justice system, as demonstrated by the seven ongoing procedures against him.


“By launching multiple procedures against Apple Daily’s founder, the Hong Kong government clearly seeks to take down a symbolic figure of press freedom”, says Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) East Asia bureau head, who calls for the end of this judicial harassment by “dropping all charges against the defendant and immediately releasing him”. 


Seven egregious and arbitrary procedures


1 - “Conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” 

  • Maximum Penalty: Life imprisonment (under China’s National Security Law)
  • Reason: Made political comments in interviews with foreign press and on social media
  • Bail: Refused three times
  • Trial start date: April 16th 2021

2 - “Fraud”

  • Maximum Penalty: 14 years in prison
  • Reason: Allegedly violated the land-lease agreement of the Apple Daily headquarters
  • Bail: Refused
  • Trial start date: April 16th 2021

3 - “Conspiracy to assist offender”

  • Maximum Penalty: 10 years in prison
  • Reason:  Allegedly helped a Hong Kong activist flee to Taiwan
  • Trial start date: Unknown (formally arrested on 16th February but not charged yet)

4 - “Organising and participating in unauthorised assembly”

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Took part in a pro-democracy protest on 18th of August 2019
  • Trial start date: Trial started on February 16th 2021, verdict pending 

5 - “Participating in unauthorised assembly”

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Took part in a pro-democracy protest on 31st of August 2019
  • Trial start date: April 7th 2021

6 - “Organising and participating in unauthorised assembly”

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Took part in a pro-democracy protest on 1st October 2019
  • Trial start date: May 17th 2021

7 - “Inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly

  • Maximum Penalty: 5 years in prison
  • Reason: Allegedly promoted a pro-democracy protest on June 4th 2020
  • Trial start date: June 11th 2021


Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2020 RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, for its part, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.