Hong Kong media tycoon, pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai freed on bail

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Jimmy Lai, the Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate who was charged with violating the city’s “national security laws” and collusion with foreign forces, was granted bail Wednesday.

A court in the financial hub granted the vocal Beijing critic $1.3 million bail under strict conditions, including house arrest and a ban on social media posts, according to Agence France-Presse.

Lai, 73, was taken into custody earlier this month after being accused of colluding with other countries by calling on them to sanction Hong Kong and China in response to a crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

His lawyers appealed Wednesday to the city’s High Court, where he was granted bail by a senior judge, Alex Lee, who was picked to adjudicate national security cases.

Lai, who had been in custody since Dec. 3, also is barred from speaking to the media, must surrender all his travel documents and may not hold any meetings with foreign officials or institutions deemed hostile to China.

He also is charged with fraud related to the lease of a building that houses his Apple Daily tabloid, which was raided by about 200 police officers in August, when he was first arrested.

Lai’s Next Media group is considered one of the key remaining bastions of press freedom.

The new national security law — which punishes what Beijing broadly defines as “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign entities” — has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous former British colony.

Hong Kong and Chinese officials say the law is necessary to plug gaping holes in national security defenses exposed by months of anti-government and anti-China protests last year.

Lai has been a frequent visitor to Washington, meeting with officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has spoken out about his arrest.

“Hong Kong’s National Security Law makes a mockery of justice. @JimmyLaiApple’s only ‘crime’ is speaking the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarianism and fear of freedom,” the top US diplomat said in a recent tweet.

“Charges should be dropped and he should be released immediately,” he added.

With Post wires

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