Lai, 73, who is known for his support of the city’s democratic movement and criticism of mainland China, was charged with suspected involvement with foreign forces and endangering national security, according to Hong Kong police.
He is the most high-profile person charged under the law, which was imposed by Beijing in June. The crime of colluding with foreign powers carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
“There is always a price to pay. I have been fighting (for democracy) for years,” he said, adding that they would continue to do so because “without freedom you have nothing left.”
Earlier this month, the line was denied bail following arrests on separate charges of fraud. He has been in custody ever since.
La called the allegations against him “very serious,” including evidence presented to him by authorities during his detention hours after his arrest, including a television interview with the international media, in which he called for China’s approval.
Under national security law, this can be interpreted as an alliance with a foreign force.
Lai also said he did not support Hong Kong’s independence movement, although he did support the people’s freedom to call, and denied long-running rumors that he used money from the US to oust China.
The Hong Kong government has upheld the law needed to bring peace and order to the city. It has been condemned by human rights groups, the European Union and the United States as too broad and restrictive of the city’s civil liberties.
When the law was passed, Hong Kong leader Carrie May said it would only “target a very small minority of criminals, while protecting the lives and property of most citizens, as well as various legitimate fundamental rights and freedoms.”
At least two dozen people have been arrested on a variety of charges, including one of Lina’s sons, on suspicion of violating national security laws. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
Joshua Wang was sentenced to 13.5 months in prison on June 21, 2019, after being found guilty of staging an unauthorized protest outside the city’s police headquarters.
Two other activists, Agnes Chow and Evan Lum, were sentenced to 10 months and seven months in prison, respectively. Chow was charged with inciting and participating in a protest, while Lam was charged with protesting.
With reports from Jenny Marsh, Will Ripley and James Griffiths.
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