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Jimmy Lai's release on bail undermines authority of national security law in HKSAR: legal sector

(Xinhua)    15:21, December 27, 2020

HONG KONG, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Legal professionals in Hong Kong said that a local court, which granted instigator of Hong Kong riots Jimmy Lai Chee-ying bail, has seriously misunderstood the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and undermined its authority.

On Dec. 23, Lai, who was suspected of violating the national security law in the HKSAR, was released on bail by High Court of the HKSAR on 10 million Hong Kong dollars (about 1.29 million U.S. dollars) and a surety of 300,000 Hong Kong dollars.

LAI'S BAIL DOES NOT COMPLY WITH NATIONAL SECURITY LAW

People from different sectors in Hong Kong expressed their dissatisfaction with the court's decision. Hong Kong legal professionals pointed out that Lai's release on bail did not comply with the relevant provisions of the national security law in the HKSAR.

Article 42 of the national security law in the HKSAR clearly stipulated that suspects and defendants shall not be granted bail unless the judge has sufficient reasons to believe that they will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.

Senior consultant of Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation Gu Minkang said that the judge's understanding of the relevant provisions of national security law in the HKSAR is insufficient. The court imposed many restrictions on Lai's bail, which has proved that one cannot rule out the possibility that he will continue to commit acts against the national security law.

Tony Kan Chung Nin, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that the provisions of national security law are very clear, but the judge still approved bail, which was obviously in accordance with the common law principle, rather than with the national security law.

"Turning a blind eye to the national security law is the greatest damage to the authority of the national security law," Kan said.

Barrister Athena Kung said that sabotaging national security is a serious offense and courts should generally be particularly careful when considering granting bail.

Kung said that guarantee conditions that were too loose resulted in a large number of "Hong Kong independence" defendants successfully jumped bail and absconded, and judicial reform needs to be carried out as soon as possible.

LAI AT GREAT RISK OF JUMPING BAIL

Hong Kong legal professionals pointed out that Lai had a major risk of absconding from bail and it was unreasonable that he was released on bail.

Grenville Cross, former director of public prosecutions of Hong Kong, said that Lai was facing a number of charges. If convicted, he will face long-term imprisonment, so he has a strong motive to jump bail.

He said that Lai was wealthy and had close links with countries and regions such as the United States, Canada, Britain and China's Taiwan that do not have fugitive extradition agreements with Hong Kong, and many anti-China forces will help him abscond.

Retired magistrate Symon Wong Yu-wing said that the judge ordered Lai to pay 10 million HK dollars and a surety of 300,000 HK dollars in bail, which was just a drop in the bucket for Lai. And of the three sureties, at least one of them was also involved in lawsuits and they were not trustworthy. These bail conditions were meaningless.

Vice Secretary-General of the Hong Kong Coalition Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, who is also a lawyer, said Lai has been doing business for a long time and has close ties with foreign countries, with a strong ability and abundant resources to abscond. Meanwhile, the conditions for bail did not specify that the police would exercise necessary control over him.

Therefore, although Lai has to meet a series of bail conditions, the possibility of him absconding from bail should not be eliminated, Wong said.

NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICE IN HONG KONG SHOULD ACT DECISIVELY

Article 55 of the national security law in HKSAR stipulated that the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR shall exercise jurisdiction over crimes against national security.

Many Hong Kong legal professionals said that Lai's case was a complicated situation involving the intervention of foreign countries or foreign forces and the office shall act decisively and exercise jurisdiction.

Kennedy Wong Ying-ho said that judging from the remarks made by Lai and some Western politicians, foreign countires or foreign forces have colluded deeply with Lai and are trying their best to interfere in the trial of Lai's case.

Therefore, according to Article 55 of the national security law in HKSAR, it is necessary for the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR to exercise jurisdiction over the case.

Chairman of Hong Kong Legal Professionals Association Wong Kit-hin said that Lai's case was very special. Lai was a major anti-China offender and was involved in many cases. The decision of the High Court judge was likely to result in his jumping bail and escape punishment.

At this point, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR can intervene in the case. The function of the office is to handle such cases, Wong Kit-hin said.

Gu Minkang said that the success or failure of this case will determine whether the national security law in HKSAR has truly taken root in Hong Kong. Hong Kong people hope that Hong Kong's judiciary can truly safeguard national security and judge cases strictly in accordance with the law.

Symon Wong Yu-wing said that if Lai absconded, it will affect people's confidence in the rule of law in Hong Kong, which is not conducive to a better future for Hong Kong. Therefore, the exercise of jurisdiction over this case by the office is of no delay.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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