China on Wednesday accused Britain of having “malicious intentions” toward Hong Kong after British Foreign Secretary David Cameron met with the son of jailed pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai.
Lai, a 75-year-old British citizen and founder of the now-shuttered tabloid Apple Daily, has been behind bars in Hong Kong since 2020, awaiting trial for alleged “collusion with foreign forces” under a controversial national security law.
Cameron met Lai’s son Sebastian in London on Tuesday to “listen to his concerns for his father”, the UK Foreign Office wrote on social media, adding that “the UK opposes the National Security Law and will continue to stand by Jimmy Lai and the people of HK”.
“China urges the UK to earnestly respect the facts and the rule of law, and stop meddling in Hong Kong issues and China’s internal affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said on Wednesday in response to the meeting.
Mao called the senior Lai “a driving force between the chaos in Hong Kong”, referring to massive pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.
The UK’s “double standards and malicious intentions are clearly exposed”, Mao said.
If convicted, Lai faces up to life in prison under the national security law, which Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020.
The law’s aim was to quash dissent, and prominent opposition lawmakers and democracy activists in the semi-autonomous city have either fled abroad or been jailed in the three years since its passage.
Initially scheduled to start a year earlier, Lai’s trial for alleged collusion has been twice postponed and is now slated for December 18.
He has also been sentenced for attending four pro-democracy protests and for an additional charge of “fraud” — convictions that together came with sentences of more than seven years.