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Son of jailed Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai lobbies UK foreign secretary for his release

LONDON (AP) — The son of jailed Hong Kong media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai met with Britain’s foreign secretary on Tuesday to lobby for the U.K.’s help in securing his release from prison.

Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, an outspoken pro-democracy newspaper, faces a long-delayed trial next week over charges he violated sweeping national security laws that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong after anti-government protests.

CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY CRITIC, MEDIA MOGUL JIMMY LAI SENTENCED TO 69 MONTHS IN PRISON

The 76-year-old British citizen has been in detention since 2020 over other offenses. He faces life in prison if convicted of the national security charges.

His son Sebastien Lai, who leads an international campaign to call for his father’s release, said he hoped the meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron would raise the case’s profile and add to international pressure on Hong Kong’s government.

“The U.K. opposes the National Security Law and will continue to stand by Jimmy Lai and the people of Hong Kong,” the Foreign Office said after the meeting.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Jimmy Lai is accused of conspiring with others to call for international sanctions or engage in hostile activities against Hong Kong or China. He also faces a charge of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, and a separate sedition charge under a colonial-era law that is increasingly used against the opposition.

The enactment of the national security law in 2020 has led to the arrests of scores of opposition lawmakers and democracy activists, as well as an exodus of young professionals fearful of shrinking civil liberties.

Apple Daily was forced to close following the arrests of its top executives, editors and journalists.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a London-based rights lawyer leading the Lais’ international legal team, argued that the trial, to be overseen by three judges, is stacked against him.

“There’s no possible outcome for this trial that’s fair,” she said.

Sebastien Lai and his legal team hope that diplomatic pressure could be instrumental. They cite the case of Cheng Lei, the Chinese Australian journalist who was released earlier this year after being detained for three years in China on murky espionage charges.

Cheng’s return to Australia was seen as the result of lobbying from the Australian government and improved relations between China and Australia.

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