Media tycoon and national security suspect Jimmy Lai was granted bail on Wednesday, albeit with numerous conditions including that he is confined to his home. Television footage showed Lai leaving the High Court in a car, just before 11 pm.
Lai had been kept behind bars since December 3 when he appeared in court over a fraud charge in relation to his business use of Next Digital's headquarters in Tseung Kwan O.
On December 12 he was again denied bail after being charged under the national security law with colluding with foreign powers.
But High Court judge Alex Lee – one of Hong Kong's handpicked national security judges – on Wednesday ordered Lai's release on bail of HK$10 million on the condition that he remains confined to his home, apart from when he reports to police three times a week, or needs to appear in court.
The pro-democracy activist was also ordered to surrender his travel documents, and told that he cannot post messages on social media, give interviews, publish any articles, meet overseas officials, or ask foreign countries, institutions, or individuals to impose sanctions, blockade, or engage in any other "hostile activities" against Hong Kong or China.
Some of the conditions, including the house arrest and staying away from social media, were suggested by Lai's own defence lawyers.
The Department of Justice immediately applied for a certificate from the court to appeal against the bail decision at the Court of Final Appeal, although this was later rejected by the High Court which said it did not have the jurisdiction.
After the hearing, Lai smiled at his supporters in court and said "Merry Christmas".
Pro-democracy figures Yeung Sum, Albert Ho, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Leung Kwok-hung and Wu Chi-wai had been among those attending the hearing in a packed courtroom.
Lai is the only one of the four people charged so far under the national security law to have been granted bail.
Article 42 of the new legislation states that suspects shall be remanded in custody unless the judge has sufficient grounds to believe that they will not "continue to commit acts endangering national security".
Last updated: 2020-12-23 HKT 23:23