He was 12 years old when he fled his village in mainland China, arriving in Hong Kong as a stowaway on a fishing boat. Like a number of the city’s famed tycoons, he went from a menial role, toiling in a Hong Kong sweatshop, to founding a multi-million dollar empire. But unlike others who rose to the top, Jimmy Lai also became one of the fiercest critics of the Chinese state and a leading figure advocating democracy in the former British territory.
He has faced a string of cases in recent years but has not yet been convicted. On 3 December a court denied him bail over a charge relating to the illegal use of his company's premises. A week later, he became the most high-profile person charged under the controversial new national security Law. If found guilty, he could be jailed for life.