Democratic tycoon Jimmy Lai, who faces life in prison, pleaded not guilty to the three charges brought against him during his trial for endangering national security on Tuesday January 2 in Hong Kong. Currently imprisoned, Mr. Lai, 76, was surrounded by three guards in the dock, and wore headphones to better follow the hearing, according to his lawyer.

Owner of the Apple Daily, a liberal daily critical of the government which closed in 2021, Mr. Lai was originally prosecuted for “conspiracy to produce seditious material”, an offense provided for by a law dating back to colonial era, as well as for “conspiracy to collude with foreign powers” ​​and collusion.

Drastic Hong Kong law

For the last two charges, he faces life in prison, under Hong Kong’s drastic national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020. Prosecutors, however, said Tuesday that they were dropping the charge of collusion in the as it is already covered by the charge of “conspiracy to collusion”.

Several other former Apple Daily executives are also being prosecuted. Mr. Lai’s trial is highly publicized because it serves as a barometer of the current state of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

The United Kingdom and the United States have called for the release of Mr. Lai, who is also a British citizen, while the European Union and the United Nations have expressed concern over his fate. Beijing has brushed aside these criticisms as defamation and interference.