Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged under the city’s national security law, amid a widening crackdown on dissent, according to local media reports. Lai, who founded the Apple Daily tabloid, was charged on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security, local broadcaster TVB reported Friday. He is the most high-profile person out of more than two dozen charged under the law since it was implemented in June, the AP reports. He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 12, and could face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Lai was arrested under the national security law in August. He and two executives of the company that operates the Apple Daily newspaper, were later charged with fraud over accusations that they violated lease terms on office space for the company.
The 73-year-old was denied bail earlier this month. Beijing imposed the draconian national security law in response to protests in Hong Kong that began in June 2019 over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for greater democracy in the former British colony. Apple Daily criticized the law on its front page on July 1, calling it the “final nail in the coffin” of the territory's autonomy. Lai has advocated for other countries to take a harsher stance on China, and last year he traveled to the US to meet with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the proposed extradition bill. He was also arrested in February and April on charges of taking part in unauthorized protests. He also faces charges of joining an unauthorized vigil marking the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
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