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Opinion | The Arrest of Jimmy Lai: The man behind the veil!

Opinion | The Arrest of Jimmy Lai: The man behind the veil!
Jimmy Lai was arrested on 10th August. Photo: AP

By Tiffany Wong

Since the implementation of the new national security law the first arrest of a prominent person has been made. The founder of Next Digital and its tabloid paper Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, was arrested on 10th August on the suspicion of colluding with a foreign country, the conspiracy to defraud and sedition. Among the arrested are also some of Apple Daily’s high ranking employees, also his two sons. A search has been conducted under the warrants from the Magistracy. On that Monday 25 boxes of evidence have been obtained from the offices of Apple Daily. Jimmy Lai and his newspaper Apple Daily have been pro-democracy for a long time and was arrested last year already in relation to seven offenses. Mr. Lai applied several times for bail, last year, on leaving the borders of Hong Kong, but was rejected.

What is the purpose of implementation of the national security law?Chapter 1 Article 1 states the purpose clearly:

ensuring the resolute, full and faithful implementation of the policy of  “One Country, Two Systems” under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy; 


safeguarding national security; 


preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment for the offences of secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security in relation to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; 


maintaining prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and protecting the lawful rights and interests of the residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 


Mainland China already has a national security law implemented since 1993 and made further amendments in 2014-2015. Hong Kong’s national security was implemented this year on 30th June and already have more than fifty countries voiced their support.

So what will happen, when the national security law has been breached?

Article 29 of the national security law states: “A person who commits the offence shall be sentenced to fixed- term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years; a person who commits an offence of a grave nature shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years.” Although, what charges he will be facing is subject to the gravure of the obtained evidence. The prosecution will thoroughly study the nature of the offense before any charges can be pressed. Of course, Mr. Lai is eligible to apply for bail after any charges are pressed, but whether bail will be granted is questionable.

Following this high profile arrest some media outlets cried out that Hong Kong has no freedom of speech and that the  “One Country, Two Systems” approach is a lie. But how is freedom of speech defined by law and are these outcries trying to defend someone who might have deliberately violated the national security law? Freedom of opinion and expression is stated in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance Article 16:

Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph (2) of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary—

(a) for respect of the rights or reputations of others; or 


(b) for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.


So in short, Hong Kong citizens are allowed to express themselves freely. But, should the extent of expression be limitless? As far as to express themselves in a manner that is threatening to the national security, even leading to social unrest or disrupt a state? Does a rational society condone this limitless freedom?

In fact, France, Spain, Germany, USA and more countries do have security laws in place themselves. Speaking of USA, early in 1917, an Espionage Act has been set to punish collusion and treason. Whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 has been prosecuted under this Act as well, so how is Hong Kong implementing a national security law such big debate?

As for now, foreign firms are still making profitable business in China, largely thanks to a fast recovering Chinese economy after the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no doubt that Hong Kong profits more from a stable society as well.

The author is Barrister-at-law.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of Orange News.

編輯:WHon

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