Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai ordered into custody after release on bail

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Dec. 31 (UPI) — Hong Kong dissident and media mogul Jimmy Lai has been ordered back to prison more than a week after he was freed on bail.

Lai, 73, a critic of China’s increasing grip on Hong Kong, had been charged under the new Hong Kong national security law for his support of pro-democracy movements.

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Lai was released on $1.29 million bail before Christmas, but was ordered back to jail Thursday after Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal ruled in favor of the prosecution.

Lai, publisher of local tabloid Apple Daily, is appealing the court decision. His hearing is scheduled Feb. 1.

The Hong Kong businessman also faces charges of breaching office land-lease terms. Senior executives at Next Digital, founded by Lai in 1981, also face the charges.

Lai resigned from the company Tuesday, when he said he wanted to “spend more on dealing with his personal affairs,” according to Hong Kong Free Press.

Thursday’s court decision came from Chief Justice Andrew Cheung, Justice Roberto Ribeiro and Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam selected the judges, according to the report.

Lai’s bail drew a response from Beijing earlier in the week. Chinese state media, including People’s Daily, condemned the decision as “inconceivable” and described Lai as “notorious and extremely dangerous.”

Lai has been charged with colluding with foreign powers, and encouraging countries like the United States to place sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials for passing the Hong Kong security law.

Prosecutors who sought the reversal of Lai’s bail Thursday cited Article 42 of the security law, which specifies, “no bail shall be granted to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the individual will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

Analysts including political scientist Joseph Cheng told Al Jazeera the “whole process” is a threat to the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary.

“Jimmy Lai was initially denied bail, then he appealed and was granted bail by the high court — at this juncture, the pro-Beijing media in Hong Kong … severely attacked the judge’s decision,” Cheng said.