Jimmy Lai, founder of Hong Kong’s defunct Apple Daily newspaper and a high-profile supporter of the city’s pro-democracy movement, has been accused of violating the Beijing-imposed national security law. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

The 76-year-old is on trial for two counts of taking part in a “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” under the security legislation, and also for conspiring to publish “seditious” materials under a colonial-era law. The self-made millionaire’s media outlet, which was forced to close in June 2021 after senior staff were arrested, faces the same charges. Apple Daily’s newsroom was raided twice, and its assets were frozen.

The trial was originally slated to begin in December 2022 but was postponed following government attempts to prevent Lai from hiring a top British lawyer, Timothy Owen. Lai also holds UK citizenship. Owen was effectively barred from representing Lai after Beijing, at Hong Kong’s invitation, issued the first interpretation of the national security law, confirming that the power to bar foreign lawyers from such cases lay with the city’s leader and a powerful national security committee.

When Lai’s trial began on December 18, 2023, he had already spent more than 1,000 days in custody after having had his bail revoked in December 2020. Three judges – handpicked by Hong Kong’s chief executive to hear national security cases – are presiding over Lai’s trial in the place of a jury, marking a departure from the city’s common law traditions.

latest jimmy lai news

latest jimmy lai news

Jimmy Lai’s national security trial timeline

  • August 10, 2020 – Police arrested Jimmy Lai on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces. Over 100 police officers raided Apple Daily’s offices.
  • December 3, 2020 – Lai was arrested for alleged fraud and denied bail.
  • December 11, 2020 – Lai was formally charged with “collusion with foreign forces,” becoming the first person to be charged with collusion under the national security law.
  • December 23, 2020 – High Court judge Alex Lee granted bail to Lai on conditions including that he stayed at home except for court hearings and reporting to the police.
  • December 31, 2020 – Lai was put in custody after the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) allowed the justice department to appeal against Lai’s bail.
  • February 9, 2021 – The CFA ruled in favour of the government and Lai’s bail was revoked.
  • February 16, 2021 – Lai was arrested in custody on suspicion of assisting Andy Li abscond to Taiwan.
  • February 18, 2021 – The High Court dismissed Lai’s bail application.
  • April 1, 2021 – Lai, along with six other pro-democracy activists, was found guilty of organising and taking part in an “unlawful assembly” in August 2019. He was later sentenced to 12 months in prison for this offence. Lai was cleared of the organising conviction in August 2023. The case is still under appeal.
  • May 28, 2021 – Lai, along with nine other pro-democracy activists, was sentenced to 14 months in jail for his “organising” role in a protest in October 2019.
  • June 17, 2021 – Police raided Apple Daily a second time, arresting five senior executives including chief editor Ryan Law and Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung. Police also froze HK$ 18 million worth of assets linked to Apple Daily.
  • June 24, 2021 – Apple Daily issued its last edition after 26 years. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside its headquarters the night before as the tabloid went out of print.
  • December 13, 2021 – Lai, along with seven other pro-democracy activists, was found guilty for organising, taking part in, or inciting others to join the banned Tiananmen crackdown vigil in 2020. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail.
  • November 22, 2022 – Six senior executives of Apple Daily and its parent company Next Digital pleaded guilty to collusion.
  • November 28, 2022 – Chief Executive John Lee invited Beijing to interpret the national security law to determine whether foreign counsels can participate in national security cases, after the government failed to block Lai from hiring British barrister Timothy Owen.
  • December 1, 2022 – Lai’s trial was adjourned until December 13 while the city waited for Beijing to “clarify” whether overseas lawyers are allowed to appear in such cases.
  • December 10, 2022 – Lai was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison for fraud over a lease violation of the Next Digital headquarters.
  • December 13, 2022 – Lai’s trial was adjourned again until September 25, 2023.
  • December 30, 2022 – The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress confirmed that Hong Kong’s chief executive and Committee for Safeguarding National Security had the authority to decide whether overseas lawyers could take part in security law trials. 
  • August 18, 2023 – During a pre-trial review, Lai’s collusion trial was further postponed until December.
  • September 26, 2023 – Lai’s 1,000th day in custody. International groups called for his release, while the government slammed such demands as “slanderous.”
  • December 18, 2023 – Lai’s collusion case begins.

latest on the jimmy lai trial

YouTube video
YouTube video
YouTube video


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps


Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods

Original reporting on HKFP is backed by our monthly contributors.

Almost 1,000 HKFP Patrons made this coverage possible. Each contributes an average of HK$200/month to support our award-winning original reporting, keeping the city’s only independent English-language outlet free-to-access for all. Three reasons to join us:

  1. 🔎 Transparent & efficient: As a non-profit, we are externally audited each year, publishing our income/outgoings annually, as the city’s most transparent news outlet.
  2. 🔒 Accurate & accountable: Our reporting is governed by a strict Ethics Code. We are 100% independent, and not answerable to any tycoon, mainland owners or shareholders. Check out our latest Annual Report, and help support press freedom.
  3. 💰 It’s fast, secure & easy: We accept most payment methods – cancel anytime, and receive a free tote bag and pen if you contribute HK$150/month or more.
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.