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HK court grants tycoon Jimmy Lai bail

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Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was granted a $1.3 million bail on Wednesday (December 23) by a Hong Kong court.

He is the highest profile pro-democracy activist to have been charged under the city's new national security law, on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces.

An immediate appeal by the prosecution was denied by the city's High Court.

Lai is one of the financial hub's most ardent critics of Beijing.

His Next Media group is considered one of the key remaining bastions of media freedom.

The 73-year-old was arrested in August, when about 200 police officers raided the newsroom of his Apple Daily tabloid.

In custody since 3rd December, Lai is also charged with fraud related to the lease of a building that houses the newspaper.

The security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.

It has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous, Chinese-ruled city, which has seen months of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

Under the new law, the onus is on the defendant to prove they would not be a national security threat if released on bail, rather than on the prosecution to prove its case.

While on bail, Lai will not be allowed to meet foreign officials, give interviews, publish any articles or post on social media. He will also have to remain at home and surrender his travel documents.

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