Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was charged on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security under the new national security law that Chia imposed on Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai of Next Digital, which publishes the Apple Daily newspaper, is escorted by Correctional Services officers to prison, in Hong Kong, Thursday, December 3, 2020.
Jimmy Lai of Next Digital, which publishes the Apple Daily newspaper, is escorted by Correctional Services officers to prison, in Hong Kong, Thursday, December 3, 2020. (AP)

Hong Kong democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged under the city's national security law on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security.

Lai, an ardent critic of Beijing, would be the highest profile person charged under the sweeping new law imposed on the Chinese-ruled city in June.

The law has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent. 

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing say it is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-Beijing protests that rocked the city over the last year.

READ MORE: Wong, other Hong Kong activists jailed for 2019 anti-Beijing protests

Lai, 73, was denied bail earlier this month following his arrest on a separate charge of fraud related to the lease of a building that houses his Apple Daily, an anti-government tabloid.

Local media TVB and Cable TV said Lai had been charged with two offences while NOW TV said Lai's charges on Friday stemmed from seeking sanctions against Hong Kong.

Lai had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a "traitor".

News of the charges comes as authorities intensify a crackdown on opposition forces that has seen lawmakers dismissed and high-profile democracy activists such as Joshua Wong jailed.

READ MORE: More arrests in Hong Kong as crackdown on dissent continues

Source: Reuters