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Day 1: December 18, 2023

Trial Updates

15:30 Court Dismiss

15:00 The judge asked whether the defendant could be charged if he was not in Hong Kong

Regarding the prosecution time bar, Judge Lee asked the Counsel if he meant that the defendant is not in Hong Kong, the prosecutor cannot bring charges? Peng believes that this issue should be dealt with during legislation, not now.

Pang Yao-hong also made a statement on the English version of the words “begun” and “institute” in Section 11 of the Crimes Ordinance, saying that there is no difference between the two words, and that legal proceedings should be initiated at the moment Jimmy Lai is brought to court. Based on this calculation, the articles involved have exceeded the prosecution time limit.

14:30 Lai looks skinnier

After the lunch break, Lai was brought into the court before the court session. He also raised his thumb in the direction of his relatives and friends, then smiled and blew a kiss.

Adjourned at 12:49 and resumed at 2:30 p.m.

12:30 Robert Pang: Courts should interpret the sedition crime loosely when it comes to press freedom

Peng emphasized that the dispute over the prosecution time bar is related to whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. If the action exceeded the prosecution period, the court has no jurisdiction to deal with it. In particular, this case involves basic personal rights and freedom of the press. The court should interpret the law more loosely and be stricter on the prosecution.

Judge Alex Lee Wan Tang asked if separate charges were filed for different acts, even if the defendant committed a series of charges, whether all charges would be subject to the same prosecution time limit.

Peng agreed, emphasizing that the mechanism of the prosecution deadline is that the prosecution cannot wait forever and accumulate all the actions before charging them all at once. Judge Lee asked Pang again, assuming that A and B conspired to commit a crime from the first day, according to the 6-month prosecution period, anyone who participates in the conspiracy after 6 months cannot be prosecuted. Pang Yao-hong agreed that he should not be subject to any prosecution, and said that if C joined later, he should be charged with another conspiracy charge.

Judge Susana Maria D’almada Remedios questioned whether Peng meant that every time a conspiracy was committed, a new charge should be filed? Pang agreed, saying that this was a limitation on the prosecution period, otherwise the effect of the restriction on the initiation of legal proceedings under Section 159D of the Crimes Ordinance, Chapter 200, would be weakened.

10:45 Defense: The articles involved in the case exceed the prosecution time limit

Senior counsel for the defense, Robert Pang Yiu-hung, first made his statement on the controversial time limit for the prosecution of “conspiracy to publish seditious publications”. He pointed out that according to Section 11 of the Crimes Ordinance, prosecution for sedition offenses can only be conducted within 6 months of the crime. The first publication mentioned in the charge in this case was published on April 1, 2019. And the last article was published on June 24, 2021. Therefore the prosecution period ends on October 1, 2019.

Robert Pang continued that if the court does not accept the above situation, the prosecution time limit for the charge shall be calculated from the day the conspiracy began, which should also be calculated from the last day of the conspiracy, that is, December 24, 2021. Jimmy Lai was charged with “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” on December 28 of the same year. In other words, the prosecution exceeded the deadline by 4 days, and the court had no jurisdiction to handle the sedition charge.

10:15 The judges clarified that the court did not receive Jimmy Lai’s application for video deposition of overseas witnesses 

Just before the trial started, Judge Toh Lye Ping mentioned that local media reported that Jimmy Lai’s application for video deposition of overseas witnesses was rejected. She said that according to regulations, if the defendant wants to apply for video deposition of overseas witnesses, it must be submitted within 42 days after the delivery process. She clarified that no relevant application has been received in this case. The defense confirmed that there was no application for video deposition of overseas witnesses.

10:07 Trial begins

According to reporters in court, Chief Superintendent of the National Security Department Steve Li Kwai-wah was present to observe the trial. The prosecution said the defendant did not object to having police officers sitting in the courtroom, SC Pang confirmed.

10:00 Jimmy Lai enters the courtroom

Jimmy Lai, who is serving his sentence, was escorted by the correctional officers into the defendant’s seat, where four correctional officers were guarding. Wearing a gray suit jacket, Lai sat between the two correctional officers. At one point he put on his glasses, took over the interpretation headphones and put them on. From time to time, Lai looked at the public seats and the seats of relatives and friends, and waved gently.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, attended the trial this morning. Lai’s wife and daughter were also present.

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