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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai gets bail in national security case

Hong Kong's High Court has granted bail to pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, the most high-profile person charged under a controversial new security law, according to a BBC report.

Lai, 73, was remanded in custody earlier this month but will now be placed under house arrest. He was ordered to pay a $1.3 million bond.

The founder of Apple Daily newspaper is a fierce critic of China's authorities.

Lai, 73, who had been in custody since Dec. 3, is also charged with fraud related to the lease of a building that houses Apple Daily.

The security law – which punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail – has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous, Chinese-ruled city.

Beijing has said the new security law will return stability to the territory after a year of unrest, but critics say it is aimed at silencing dissent.

Under the new law, the onus is on the defendant to prove they would not be a national security threat if released on bail. Under Hong Kong’s common law-based legal system, the onus has traditionally been on the prosecution to prove its case.

Under his bail terms, Lai is not allowed to meet with foreign officials, give any interviews, publish any articles or post on social media, and will have to remain at home and surrender his travel documents.

The tycoon has been a frequent visitor to Washington, meeting with officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”..