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Day 25: February 07, 2024

The Witness: Real-time Updates | Day 25 of the Jimmy Lai Case: Lai gave instructions to emphasize the voices of young people and seek understanding from the public after the Legislative Council incident

Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and three related companies associated with Apple Daily, stands accused of charges including “collusion with foreign forces.” The trial entered its 25th day on Wednesday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court temporarily). The second “accomplice witness,” former associate publisher of Apple Daily Chan Pui-man, continued her testimony on the fourth day, facing further questioning from the prosecution.

The prosecution presented text messages exchanged between Lai and Chan on July 1, 2019, after the Legislative Council was stormed. In the messages, Lai requested Apple Daily to cover more about the sentiments of young people to garner understanding and support from the public. He also indicated the need to “amplify and disseminate these sentiments, turning them into a consensus among the citizens.” Chan confirmed that she viewed Lai’s messages as instructions, stating that Lai “was concerned that the storming of the Legislative Council would be controversial and would cause the public to withdraw their support for the movement. So, before he made any statements, we would interview on these matters.” As an example, she mentioned that on the same day, Apple Daily interviewed “militant protesters” inside the Legislative Council and recorded protesters in the Legislative Council cafeteria “putting down money to buy soft drinks.”

The case is being presided over by High Court judges designated by the National Security Law, including Judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. The prosecution is represented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau, Assistant Public Prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Public Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum. Jimmy Lai is represented by Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand Queen’s Counsel Marc Corlett, who is qualified to practice law in Hong Kong.

16:37 Adjournment.

15:55 After Lai’s visit to the US, he instructed Chan to draft questions for him to answer as a column article.

The prosecution asked if Lai informed Chan about his interview with foreign media in September 2019. Chan stated, “I don’t remember. If he had an interview with foreign media, he wouldn’t specifically notify us.” The prosecution presented messages between Lai and Chan in October 2019, where Lai said, “Pui-man, since I don’t have time for this issue, can you conduct an interview with me, asking about ten questions regarding the current situation in Hong Kong and this Washington lobbying trip? I’ll answer them for a column article?” Chan replied, “I got it.”

Chan later messaged Lai, “Mr. Lai, I’ve sent it to Ophe, she will pass it on to you.” Chan stated that she provided questions as requested by Lai and sent them to Lai through a colleague.

The prosecution presented the “International Frontline Express” section on the Apple Daily website, which published an article on October 22, 2019, titled “First hand from the United States: Senators concerned about escalating violence in demonstrations, Jimmy Lai hopes for more US voices of support for young people facing the police, so that they don’t feel alone” Chan stated that Lai’s trip to the US was consistent with his position, “So I wasn’t curious or found it unexpected or problematic enough to ask him about it.”

She explained that the anti-extradition movement originally had several demands, including the withdrawal of the extradition bill, “There were also voices in society questioning whether there was police brutality and whether there should be an independent investigation into police brutality,” so Lai felt the need to pressure the Hong Kong government through foreign governments. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Lai mentioned anything about “pressure”? Chan said that Lai did not directly tell her, but he mentioned his visit to the US Congress to discuss the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, “I believe it’s similar to pressuring through bills like this.”

The prosecution mentioned the “International Frontline Express” on the Apple Daily website and asked if the “International Frontline” was founded by Apple Daily? Chan said, “As far as I know, no,” and indicated that this was part of the online version of the news, so she didn’t know their word choices.

The prosecution presented a report from November 15, 2019, titled “The Dragon Slaying Team Calls for General Uprising and Strikes.” The article had “bottleneck dilemma” printed at the top, and they asked what it meant. Chan explained that it was the editor’s description of the situation at the time. The prosecution then asked about the mention of “Dragon Slaying Team” in the article and inquired about the angle of the article. Chan stated that the article was an interview with a figure, and “Dragon Slaying Teamr” belonged to a more radical group, indicating their call for a “General Uprising and Strikes” and explaining why such calls existed through the article.

The prosecution then presented messages between Lai and Chan, mentioning “Please vote, stop police brutality,” and asked about their connection. Chan stated there was none. The prosecution asked what “Please vote” referred to. Chan explained that, to her understanding, it referred to the District Council elections.

15:43 Messages show Mark Simon asking Chan if anyone has been sent to interview Joshua Wong and Denise Ho during their visit to the US.

On September 10, 2019, Mark Simon sent a message to Chan: “Great, there’s a new group there headed up by Sam Chu, he’s the son of Reverend Chu. I’m not 100% sure how good they’re going to be but Martin Lee and Anson Chan are backing him.” and sent Sam Chu’s contact information.

Chan stated that the “Sam Chu” mentioned in the message was Samuel Chu Muk Man, and at the time, she was not aware of the Hong Kong Democracy Council in the US. “When there was news about Sam Chu Muk Man, then I knew.”

As for the message Mark Simon sent to Chan asking, “guys, have we sent anybody in DC to cover the Joshua Wong and Denise Ho trip?” Chan replied, “yes.” The prosecution asked if Joshua Wong and Denise Ho went to Washington. Chan stated, “I remember they did.”

15:24 Chan confirmed Mark Simon as Lai’s personal assistant responsible for handling business matters outside of the media

The prosecution presented conversations between Chan and Mark Simon in August 2019, asking who Mark Simon was. Chan stated that he was Lai’s personal assistant, “I think it wasn’t until I became deputy chief editor that I paid attention to this person,” describing how they would say “Hello” when they met but wouldn’t have detailed conversations. The prosecution asked when Chan first noticed Mark Simon. Chan said she didn’t remember but indicated that at the time, “there was a foreigner in the company, and people would gossip about who he was.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Chan and Mark Simon were in the same office. Chan stated that they were not on the same office floor, “I know he often goes to Taiwan to work, and Mr. Cheung (Cheung Kim-hung) also goes to Taiwan to work. He would mention seeing Mark Simon there when he returned,” and mentioned that Mark Simon would handle business matters outside of the media for Lai, “The personal assistant is responsible for any work assigned to him by Mr. Lai.”

On August 24, 2019, Mark Simon sent a photo to Chan, “Have we seen her? Nice lady,” and Chan replied, “Our journalists will follow up.” Chan explained that Mark Simon “seemed to be giving us tips, so I casually replied to him, saying we would follow up.”

Two days later, Mark Simon sent a message to Chan: “Hello, I am now in the US. I have access to quality helmets, gas masks, protective clothing, that I can buy at good prices & ship with ease. If you need anything please let me know.”

Chan explained that at the time, there were frequent protests, and reporters needed the mentioned equipment for coverage. “The scenes were chaotic, and we needed helmets, masks, and fluorescent vests labeled as press. It was difficult to buy them because the demand was high. Since every media outlet needed them, we had never experienced having to wear them every day for work. Mark Simon himself said he had a way to buy them.” Chan described herself as being polite and thanking him but not taking Mark Simon’s words seriously.

15:06 Advertisement displays the phrase “港台命運共同睇” (Hong Kong and Taiwan share common destiny/ Watch the fate of Hong Kong and Taiwan together).
Chan: Lai’s stance is that the fate of Hong Kong and Taiwan are linked.

The prosecution displayed a page from the Apple Daily newspaper in court, with the headings “明日台灣民主,失守還是堅守?” (Future of Taiwan’s democracy, fall or stand firm?) and “升級壹會員 港台命運共同睇” (Upgrade to Next membership, watching the fate of Hong Kong and Taiwan together). Chan confirmed it was an advertisement in the Apple Daily, stating that the said advertisement was not designed by the newspaper’s editorial department. The prosecution asked if this was the stance of the Apple Daily. Chan pointed out that the advertisement used the character “睇” (watch) emphasizing that “it’s about promoting that with the same price; one can also access Taiwan’s Apple Daily content.”

Chan continued, stating, “I think what you mean is, whether it’s considered that the fate of Taiwan and Hong Kong are related, I think this is Lai’s stance.” The prosecution asked how Chan knew this. Chan stated she didn’t remember if it was during a particular occasion or during meetings he conducted, “because he also has business in Taiwan, when he talks about discussing the situation there, he’ll share his opinions, so I know what his stance is.”

14:32 Chan: Lai instructed to delve into “警暴” (police brutality) news.

The prosecution displayed the front page of the Apple Daily from July 29, 2019, titled “生雞蛋來襲 催淚彈還擊 警亂槍狂掃平民” (Raw eggs strike back, tear gas retaliation, police wildly sweep civilians), mentioning “生雞蛋” (raw eggs), but the photo in the article was of a fire pit, with the caption stating, “Protesters push objects towards the police with carts.” Chan mentioned she was off on Sundays and didn’t participate in the discussion about the layout. The prosecution asked who handled her work if Chan was off. Chan stated that if Lam man-chung was working that day, then he would decide.

The prosecution displayed records of conversations between Cheung and Lai in August 2019, where Lai asked, “沛敏,明晚有空來我家吃飯嗎?” (Pui-man, are you free to come to my house for dinner tomorrow night?). Chan replied, “明天文宗放假,我最快也要七點半才能離開公司,會不會太晚?” (Man-chung is off tomorrow, and I can only leave the company by around 7:30 at the earliest. Would that be too late?), and Lai said, “不會,八點來我家見” (No, come to my house at 8). Chan recalled that she should have gone to Lai’s residence for dinner at that time and mentioned, “he has tried calling a big group of people to his house for lunch before.”

The prosecution asked what Lai and employees discussed during lunch. Judge Lee Wan-tang asked if the lunch referred to by the prosecution was at Lai’s residence or another location. He also inquired if the mentioned conversation was related to dinner. The prosecution stated that it wasn’t about the location, just the content during lunch. Chan mentioned that Lai established the “飯盒會” (lunch box meeting) from 2019 to 2020, “so there is a VIP room in the company, and we would eat there.”

The prosecution asked what they discussed during this time. Chan stated that Lai usually set a theme and invited relevant departments to the meeting, held every few weeks. “If the topic is related to the newspaper, I would attend this meeting,” and mentioned that Cheung Kim-hung and Lam Man-chung would also attend. The meeting’s content included Lai’s suggestions, employees’ reports on recent work situations, and “he would also talk about some views on the current situation.”

The prosecution continued, asking about the themes Lai set for the meetings. Chan mentioned discussions on turning newspapers into magazines and introducing a new submission system. The prosecution asked about Lai’s views on current affairs. Chan said that Lai believed news about the movement should be done well, “for example, he paid attention to news about police brutality and suggested we delve deeper into it,” and later, Cheung Kim-hung would turn the points discussed at the “Lunch Box Club” into meeting minutes and send them to attendees, including department heads, “so they would all know about these instructions at the same time.”

The prosecution pointed out that Chan mentioned Lai said “警暴” (police brutality) and asked if the “lunch box meetings” happened in 2019. Chan stated, “Yes, it was during that time, otherwise, it wouldn’t have touched on current affairs, police brutality, and those things,” recalling that the “lunch box meetings” lasted for a year, “I remember it continued after the outbreak of the epidemic, but I don’t remember which month it stopped.”

12:57 Lunch break

12:18 Changes made to Apple Daily after Pompeo met Lai

The prosecution presented an article from July 9, 2019, titled “蓬佩奧晤黎智英討論逃犯例” (Pompeo meets Lai to discuss extradition bill), which appeared on page A3 that day, occupying one-fifth of the page, with the headline “惡法亂港” (Evil law chaos in Hong Kong). The prosecution asked if it referred to the “逃犯條例” (extradition bill). Chan confirmed.

The prosecution pointed out that the article mentioned “今晨第二次版” (Second edition today), does this mean “再印” (Reprinted)? Chan stated it wasn’t a reprint but a revision during printing. Alex Lee Wan-tang asked what the difference was between the first and second editions. Chan replied, “The first edition didn’t have enough time to include this article.” Alex Lee Wan-tang further inquired if the second edition was to add more coverage. Chan agreed, “Because Mr. Lai’s meeting with Pompeo was important, it required a revision.”

The prosecution asked why the news was important. Chan stated that Lai had been writing for foreign media, “apparently, he was very concerned about how foreign societies viewed the current social movement in Hong Kong. This meeting with the Secretary of State seemed significant to him, so we handled it that way.” The prosecution asked if Lai had informed Chan before meeting Pompeo. Chan said no.

The prosecution also showed an article from July 12, 2019, titled “黎智英晤博爾頓促華府援港” (Lai meets Bolton urging Washington to aid Hong Kong), asking if Ted Cruz mentioned in the report was a Republican congressman. Chan said, “I’m not very familiar with all the Republican congressmen in the United States, but I think that’s correct.”

12:02 Lai forwarded an article by a columnist from The Times
Asked if Apple Daily could republish it

The prosecution continued to show messages between Lai and Chan on July 4, 2019, where Lai sent Edward Lucas’s article “China is a menace at home— and abroad” from The Times, “Pui-man, Edward Lucas is a very popular columnist at The Times, you can find some suitable articles for publication. If you have any, please translate and contact him,” and forwarded Edward Lucas’s contact information to Chan.

Chan stated she didn’t originally know Edward Lucas. The prosecution asked if Apple Daily published his article. Chan believed the article wasn’t handled on the news page. She vaguely remembered discussing with Cheung Kim-hung that the article should be translated and placed in the forum section or published through the international columnists’ section, but she didn’t remember how it was ultimately published. Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if the article was eventually published. Chan said, “The international section did translate some oreign authors’ articles into Chinese, but I don’t remember if it was this person.”

The prosecution asked why Chan discussed it with Cheung Kim-hung instead of Lai. Chan explained that Apple Daily rarely translated English articles into Chinese for publication. Firstly, the article had already been published in foreign media, and secondly, it required manpower to handle, so she discussed it with Cheung Kim-hung. The prosecution asked why not discuss it with Lai. Chan said, “Because Mr. Lai’s intention was obvious, he felt this article was worth publishing.”

11:25 Short break

10:40 Lai forwarded a article by Lester Shum
Asked Chan if it could be published or interviewed

The prosecution continued to present messages between Lai and Chan. Lai forwarded an article by Lester Shum, “Shum: Officials of each Hong Kong Special Administrative Region must thank you for holding a press conference overnight to confirm the legitimacy of the movement. Comrades, the battle of public opinion has begun, and it is aimed at dividing and alienating those who oppose the violence of this system⋯Your violence, just this week, has already taken the lives of three people⋯Are you still shameless enough to say you want to repent deeply? You don’t even know how to answer a reporter’s question.”

In the message, Lai asked Chan: “Pui-man, can we publish this article in some form? Or even interview him for clarification?” Chan replied, “It can be published in the forum section. Do you have his contact?” Chan explained that she believed the content above wasn’t suitable for an interview format, so she suggested that if it were to be published, it could be done in the forum section as a commentary article. The prosecution asked if Lester Shumi’s article was eventually published. Chan said she would have notified Yeung Ching-kee to follow up.

The prosecution then showed the message records between Chan and Yeung Ching-kee, showing Chan forwarding Lester Shum’s article to Yeung, “Could you arrange for someone to contact him and see if this article can be used?” Yeung replied, “We need the help of the local news department, to see if they have his contact.” Chan then forwarded Shum’s phone number again, and Yang said, “There are currently four drafts, Shum has not responded yet. If it works out, it will be a full-page feature. The columns of Yeung Sir and Gao Yu will be delayed.”

The prosecution asked who “Yeung Sir” referred to. Chan indicated it was the former publisher of Apple Daily, Yeung Wai-hong, pen-named “Gu Li”. The prosecution asked again if Yeung reported to Chan structurally. Chan stated that if Yeung was on leave, “He would give me a form to sign, and after the article fee was approved, he would give it to me to sign.” The forum section and editorials were handled by Yeung himself.

In addition, on the same day, Lai sent to Chan an article he wrote for The New York Times titled “What The Hong Kong Protests Are Really About,” saying, “By the way, this is my piece in NYT on 7/1 you’d approve. Cheers. Jimmy.”

Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Lai needed Chan’s approval to publish his article. Chan said, “He doesn’t need my approval to write an article. It seems like he wrote the article for many people to read, so I don’t think the ‘you’ refers to me.” Chan stated that besides the mentioned articles, Lai also submitted articles to other foreign media, and the frequency increased after 2019.

10:15 Messages show after the July 1 Legislative Council clash
Lai instructed to report more about young people’s voices to seek understanding from the public

The second prosecution witness, former associate publisher of Apple Daily, Chan Pui-man, continued her testimony. Prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan mentioned the clash at the Legislative Council on July 1, 2019, and Chan confirmed that Apple Daily had relevant reports. It was shown in court that the next day, Lai forwarded a message to Chan: “Nick, it’s good, the incident where young people stormed the Legislative Council weighs heavily on my mind. What do you think the pro-democracy camp should do afterwards to keep the movement going? Fortunately, the public might be somewhat understanding of the young people storming the Legislative Council, and the damage might not be too great. What do you think? Thanks. Lai,” and also said, “This young father speaks very well, it will be inspiring to many people.”

Chan replied: “Received. Tomorrow’s newspaper will have a lot of voices from young people storming and occupying the Legislative Council. Including the above-mentioned martyrs. We will do more tomorrow.” Chan explained in court that “Nick” referred to Cheung Chi-wai, indicating that Lai forwarded his conversation with Cheung Chi-wai to her. Cheung informed Lai that reporters interviewed the protesters, and the report would appear on the website, including the young father mentioned by Lai.

She continued to explain that as mentioned earlier in her testimony, most of the reporters’ work was for the online edition. “Most of what they interview will also be used in our newspaper.” She also mentioned that it was already early in the morning, and she knew that the website colleagues had interviewed this, so she replied “received.”

The messages also showed Lai saying, “Okay, our work in the next few days is to expand and spread these sentiments, to permeate into a consensus among the citizens.” Chan replied: “But in any case, we’ll do it again tomorrow.” Lai said, “Yes, we need to do it again. Should we focus on the voices of young people tomorrow and try to seek understanding and support from the public for them in this matter, and justify it?” Chan said, “Of course, there will definitely be some people who disagree with storming the Legislative Council, but these people will not become supporters of Carrie Lam because of this. We will do it again tomorrow.”

Chan later sent screenshots of “I am a public relations professional” and the Apple Daily Facebook page to Lai, among which the Apple Daily screenshot mentioned “Demonstrators in the Legislative Council cafeteria put down money before taking soft drinks.” Chan stated that because Lai mentioned that Apple Daily should talk more about young people’s voices and seek understanding and support from the public, “I wanted to let him know that there are some who understand the protesters on social media,” and also mentioned that the screenshots showed that reporters had reported that protesters were “paying for drinks.”

Judge Alex Lee asked if Chan sending the screenshots to Lai meant that Apple Daily reporters had done what Lai asked them to do. Chan said that the Legislative Council incident itself was a big news, “colleagues instinctively recorded this event, of course, Lai had an intention, he wanted us to follow up on this matter,” and the above message “gave me instructions, he was worried that the incident of storming the Legislative Council would be very controversial and would no longer have public support for the movement, so before he spoke, we would do the interviews.”

Chan continued, “But after he said that, it seemed like he wanted to have a motive to interview, to make sure that the public would continue to support the movement, he wanted to use our reporting to make the public understand or support these protesters.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked, in other words, whether Lai had a purpose in mind and allowed Apple Daily’s viewpoint to achieve his goal? Chan agreed and also agreed with the prosecution’s point that she regarded Lai’s message as an instruction and later incorporated the information collected by the website colleagues into a large article to implement Lai’s instructions.”

10:05 Controversy over translating “逆權” into English
At the start of the court session, both the prosecution and defense discussed the translation issue of “逆權” that the judge raised yesterday. Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang pointed out that translating “逆權” as “anti-tyranny” or “anti-authority” would be more neutral. However, Senior Counsel Robert Pang from the defense disagreed with the prosecution’s suggestion, arguing that it implied “anarchy” and also mentioned that the term “極權” mentioned by the witness came from a South Korean movie and is not commonly used.

Robert Pang continued, stating that he watched related movies about “逆權” last night, where the content mentioned opposing the abuse of power. Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios remarked that the court cannot follow the content of movies and reiterated that the witness agreed that “逆權” means “opposing the government,” emphasizing that the translation should be in line with the local context. Judge Esther Toh noted that one of the three judges does not speak Chinese; Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios clarified that she speaks Chinese but does not read Chinese.

Judge Esther Toh emphasized that in any case, the English translation “The June Struggle” presented by the prosecution in court yesterday regarding the special issue “逆權六月” is incorrect and asked for the opinion of the court interpreter. The court interpreter suggested translating “極權” as “anti-totalitarianism” or “anti-authoritarianism,” with Judge Alex Lee indicating that the interpreter’s opinion should be respected. Judge Esther Toh stated that the English translation of “逆權六月” should be “June anti-authoritarianism.”

10:03 Court in session

09:58 Jimmy Lai entered the courtroom and greeted his family.

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