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Day 24: February 06, 2024

Ming Pao: Jimmy Lai Trial | Chan Pui-man testifies that Lai wanted to encourage more people to protest and that he was happy to see millions showed up

Founder of Next Digital Jimmy Lai and three companies related to Apple Daily continued to be tried for the conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. The second “accomplice witness,” then associate publisher of Apple Daily, Chan Pui-man, appeared in court to testify.

Live updates of the trial from Ming Pao:

[15:51] Court adjourns.

[15:23] Chan Pui-man further explained that “anti-authoritarianism” is not a commonly used term but originated from South Korean movies such as “The Attorney” and “The Attorney” (translated as “Anti-authoritarianism Counsel” in Hong Kong). Therefore, it is widely known to the public. She believed the term represents opposition to government actions, but using “opposition” is too direct, while “anti-authoritarianism” is more comprehensive.

Before adjourning, the judge raised translation concerns, suggesting that the witness’s statements should align as closely as possible with the prosecution’s wording, inviting both the prosecution and defense to assist the court in reaching a consensus on translated terms.

[15:07] The prosecution continued to present WhatsApp message records between Jimmy Lai and Chan Pui-man. On June 26, 2019, Lai mentioned he had “just landed in London,” to which Chan replied, “Are you coming back for the July 1 march?” When asked why she inquired this way, Chan explained that Lai sometimes participated in the July 1 march, so she needed to determine whether to send reporters to cover it, as “he is a public figure.”

The prosecution mentioned that on July 1, 2019, Apple Daily’s headline was “Evil Law Not Withdrawn, Carrie Lam Not Stepping Down, Hong Kong Takes to the Streets Again,” accompanied by a special edition titled “June anti-authoritarianism.” (逆權六月) Chan stated that the special edition consisted of news photos taken by Apple Daily’s photographers during protests in June. She estimated that most readers opposed the extradition bill and wanted a physical copy; “authority” refers to the ruling individuals or organizations, “simply put, it’s opposing the government.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked why it was distributed for free instead of for sale. Chan said, “if it’s for sale, it’ll need to be beautifully printed before anyone buys it.” Judge Lee further asked whose idea it was to produce the special edition. Chan couldn’t recall who initially suggested it but agreed with the decision and consulted her superior, Cheung Kim-hung. She believed the special edition could encourage readers to purchase Apple Daily and express support for the protest movement.

[14:32] Court resumed. The prosecution continues to present WhatsApp message records from June 2019. On June 3, Jimmy Lai messaged Chan Pui-man, suggesting, “we should find some students to sign petitions and interviews to encourage other students to join the 6/9 rally.” Chan replied, “Yes, we will find more. Thank you.” Chan added in court that upon receiving Lai’s message, she instructed other colleagues to follow up, and she also agreed with the prosecution’s description that Lai was still very much concerned about the protest movement until June 2019.

On June 9, Lai and Chan exchanged messages discussing the turnout for the rally that day. Lai described the city as “filled with people,” estimating over 1 million participants, to which Chan replied, “Hope so.” Lai also forwarded his exchange with Dung Kiu (董橋), who praised Lai and Apple Daily’s efforts, to which Lai replied, “Haha! Yes, cheers to the brave people of Hong Kong! Great! I’ll tell Pui-man, this is a great headline,” and suggested using “Cheers to the brave people of Hong Kong” as the headline. Chan replied, “We’ll discuss it and express the same sentiment in colloquial terms.”

Chan Pui-man clarified in court that she understood Lai’s suggestion as a direction for the headline but did not directly adopt Lai’s suggestion. The prosecution presented the front-page report of Apple Daily the following day, titled “Hong Kong’s Beautiful Stubbornness: 1,030,000.” Chan confirmed that she followed Lai’s direction in writing the headline.

[12:42] The prosecution continued to present messages sent by Jimmy Lai to Chan Pui-man and one attributed to “Dung Kiu” on May 30, 2019:

“The choice of people to come out and call for people to hit the streets is very important. Yesterday’s front-page with the three judges speaking out had a lot of influence, and the Hong Kong government made immediate minor adjustments. Hong Kong people believe in the views of legal authority. Among the democrats, Martin Lee Chu-ming’s legal argument is the most convincing. When they go out to lobby foreign governments to save Hong Kong, it’s something Hong Kong people don’t like to hear. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun’s call also works; his religious image is deeply ingrained in people’s minds. Your newspaper [should] have a space every day for influential figures to comment on the ‘extradition’ issue. There will be many more people on June 9th. What we want to promote is not that Hong Kong needs democracy; what we want to promote is that Hong Kong’s values cannot be trampled by the Communist Party. Dung Kiu”

Jimmy Lai then said, “I’ll have time to talk about Dung Kiu’s suggestion this afternoon.” Chan Pui-man testified that Dung Kiu was the former publisher of Apple Daily, confirming that she discussed Dung Kiu’s suggestion with Lai the day after receiving the message. Lai instructed Chan to report more on “the concerns of influential people about this bill” before June 9 and discuss concerns about the extradition bill. Lai also believed that statements from pro-democracy people were no longer newsworthy and instructed Chan to contact authoritative figures in the legal or religious communities to speak out. Chan then consulted with her colleagues and attempted to implement Lai’s instructions.

[12:20] The prosecution inquired about claims regarding Jimmy Lai’s retirement, but according to the May 2019 headline of Apple Daily, the article mentioned, “When asked if he feels increasingly tired, Lai said he never feels tired, ‘because he needs to bear the responsibility of being a voice of opposition.'” Chan Pui-man indicated that, based on her understanding, Jimmy Lai made the above statement, but she did not hear it directly.

Subsequently, Judge Alex Lee interrupted the prosecution’s main question, asking why they were questioning the witness about Jimmy Lai’s retirement. He pointed out that the prosecution should consider how to effectively substantiate their case and stated that if Jimmy Lai’s retirement is not relevant, they should refrain from asking about it to avoid wasting time, as the court has no interest in knowing whether Lai is retiring.

The prosecution then continued to inquire about the themes of Apple Daily’s reporting from April to May 2019. Chan Pui-man stated that as the government was still pushing forward with the extradition bill at the time, “there was still some discussion among the public about the bill, and the pro-democracy camp was working continuously, hoping the government would shelve the bill.” Therefore, when Jimmy Lai expressed opposition to the bill, Apple Daily followed up with its reporting. Regarding why Jimmy Lai’s opinions were relevant to the reporting, Chan pointed out that “his opposition to the bill was very clear, and he attached great importance to it.”

[12:00] Court session began. The prosecution presented the newspaper from Apple Daily dated April 28, 2019. Three judges first reviewed the newspaper, then handed it to Chan Pui-man for examination. The front page of the newspaper featured the headline ” Take to the Streets Against Evil LawToday,” accompanied by a poster showing an upright handcuff with “HK” engraved on the upper ring and the emblem of the Chinese Communist Party on the lower ring, with the title “Evil Extradition Law” below.

Chan Pui-man explained that she understood it to be an “in-house” advertisement, promoting and urging readers to subscribe to Apple Daily’s digital news. She further clarified that while she wasn’t responsible for advertisements, “as a reader, I would still perceive its significance related to the extradition bill, and the bill was mentioned below.”

[11:30] Recess.

[10:50] Judge Alex Lee asked Chan Pui-man, “What is Jimmy Lai’s opinion on the ‘extradition bill’?” Chan indicated that Lai opposes the extradition bill. Judge Lee then asked, “What is Lai’s view on the protest actions?” Chan replied, “I think he supports the protests and the resistance.”

The prosecution discussed other information, and Chan Pui-man stated that this information was about “Lai saying he recorded two video clips, which he posted on his social media platforms,” and “the information can be published in Apple Daily, the things said by Chris Patten.” The prosecution asked whether the coverage of former Governor Patten’s remarks in Apple Daily was based on Lai’s suggestion or editorial instruction. Chan answered, “It was an instruction, I believe.”

[10:20] The prosecution presented a message from April 2019 in which Jimmy Lai said to Chan Pui-man, “This artist Zunzi designed a banner. We can’t print it in every issue of the newspaper. Why don’t you ask Lee Cheuk-yan what he needs, and we’ll print as many as needed for distribution on-site.”

Chan Pui-man explained that artist Zunzi is a political cartoonist who “has a column in our newspaper” and added that Apple Daily usually invites the artists to design cartoons, which are then displayed in full pages in Apple Daily, “but usually only on July 1st.” “This march was probably held against the extradition bill, so we made an exception to do this in late April,” Chan confirmed that the march took place on April 28th.

Another message from the same month, on the 27th, Jimmy Lai said to Chan Pui-man, “Please think about what else we can do to encourage people to take to the streets tomorrow? The situation is really quiet now, I’m worried.” The next day, the headline of Apple Daily was “Take to the Streets Today Against the Evil Law,” accompanied by a cartoon poster. When asked about the decision to print the poster, Chan said, “I’m not sure,” and “perhaps everyone felt that Lai attached great importance to the march, so we printed the cartoon on that day.” She later explained that she could tell Lai valued the march because “he kept sending messages to us, asking to see how many more people were taking to the streets and asked us to print posters for the Civil Human Rights Front.” Chan added that the poster was printed on the bottom of the newspaper page, and if readers wanted to use it, “they would cut it out themselves like a sheet of paper.”

[10:02] Court session began. Former associate publisher of Apple Daily, Chan Pui-man, continued her testimony, describing the matter of the interview in Taiwan with Lam Wing-kee, the former manager of Causeway Bay Books. On April 26, 2019, she followed Jimmy Lai’s instructions to find Lam Wing-kee’s background information from Wikipedia and a RTHK program, and sent the links of relevant videos to Lai to watch. Later, Lai attempted to consolidate the information and asked Chan to “fact check” whether it was accurate. On the 28th of the same month, Jimmy Lai published an article in his personal column, “Success and Failure with a Laugh,” about Lam Wing-kee fleeing to Taiwan.

Ming Pao

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