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Day 31: February 22, 2024

Ming Pao:【Ongoing Updates】Jimmy Lai Case | Apple Daily Lists National Security Law ‘Traitors of Hong Kong’ – Chan Pui-man: Conclusion Reached After Discussion, Also Aligns With Lai’s Thoughts (17:00)

The trial of Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Media, and three companies related to Apple Daily, for conspiring to collude with foreign forces entered its 31st day. Chan Pui-man, the then Deputy President of Apple Daily, continued her testimony.

Ming Pao live-texted the trial proceedings.

【16:40】 Court adjourned. The prosecution expressed hope to complete their questioning by next Monday.

【16:02】 The prosecution pointed out that on August 11, Apple Daily published “200 police search Next Media and arrest Jimmy Lai – Apple Daily will persist,” at a time when Jimmy Lai had already been arrested. Citing the report, the prosecution mentioned Chan’s Facebook post stating “all colleagues will continue their editorial work, news will continue to be published, and the newspaper will be out as usual tomorrow,” and asked her why she made such a statement.

Chan responded that many in the journalism field were concerned about whether Apple Daily would continue its publications, so she informed on her personal account that “everyone is still working at the newspaper, and our website will continue to have live news being published.” The article also listed the charges of other arrested individuals, including Jimmy Lai’s son Lai See-yan, the then COO and CFO of Next Media, Royston Chaw Tat-kuen, and “Hong Kong Story” member Andy Li, among others, along with a statement “Stand firm, persist to the end!” asserting “Apple Daily will definitely stand firm.” Chan indicated that publishing the statement on the front page was her idea, and while she couldn’t remember if she wrote it, she might have outlined the content for a more articulate staff member to write. She considered the police search of the newspaper a “big deal,” and Cheung Kim-hung also made it clear that Apple Daily would maintain its stance, “I felt it was necessary to express our view on this matter based on what Cheung said, both in meaning and spirit.”

【15:44】 On August 10, 2020, Jimmy Lai forwarded a press release to Chan Pui-man, mentioning Luke de Pulford from the UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission and Nathan Law, with Lai stating it was up to Chan to decide whether to publish. Chan still regarded it as Lai’s instruction, and Apple Daily indeed published the report titled “International team crowdfunding to control British Hong Kong police,” also including a crowdfunding link. Judge Lee asked why a link was provided, and Chan explained that many readers were inquiring about how to donate at that time.

【15:32】 On August 2, 2020, Apple Daily published “National Security Law’s global tyranny – American Samuel Chu Muk-man: Lobbying one’s own country also gets one wanted,” listing Samuel Chu Muk-man, the then director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), former convener of Hong Kong’s local democratic camp, Ray Wong Toi-yeung, former employee of the British Consulate in Hong Kong, Simon Cheng Man-kit, former convenor of Students Independence Union, Wayne Chan Ka-kui, former chairman of Demosistō, Joshua Wong, and chairman of the Utilitarian Party, Honcques Laus, as being charged.

Chan Pui-man noted that the six individuals were wanted for allegedly violating the National Security Law, and Apple Daily interviewed Chu, intending to express the absurdity he felt as an American citizen being wanted. On August 8, Lai tweeted in English, “What about the election officers? Who disqualifies the candidates? Are they to be held responsible?” linking to an Apple Daily report. Chan mentioned the content related to the 2020 Legislative Council election and the disqualification of candidates, with Apple Daily also covering the topic.

【15:15】 On July 25, 2020, Apple Daily published a front-page news “Pompeo declares at Nixon Library: 50 years of US policy towards China has failed – US calls on the free world to overcome new tyranny, Beijing slams Cold War mentality, political lies.” The prosecution asked Chan Pui-man why this news was reported on the front page. Chan explained it involved a US Secretary of State declaring 50 years of policy towards China a failure, “saying the free world needs to overcome new tyranny, with such strong wording,” considering it crucial for diplomacy and US-China relations, hence the front-page treatment. Chan also confirmed the front page was related to Jimmy Lai’s stance, “because Mr. Lai values the US perspective and is critical of the CCP, so we considered this news important.”

【14:45】 The prosecution showed a message sent by Chan Pui-man to then Publisher Cheung Kim-hung on July 17, 2020, recording “Today’s lunch box meeting discussion points,” including the second point:

“Words can be considered, the red lines of the National Security Law are vague, act according to one’s conscience and journalistic principles.”

Chan added in court that at the time, she and many colleagues were uncertain about what news topics or words might be illegal or what actions fell within the scope of press freedom, “We were still in the exploratory phase” but had to deal with daily tasks. Thus, the discussion about the “red lines” of the National Security Law led to the above conclusion, which surely was agreed upon by Jimmy Lai.

The third meeting point was “the need for more contracts with overseas authors,” which Chan Pui-man stated was Jimmy Lai’s suggestion, “because many overseas media or commentators were very focused on the situation in Hong Kong after the National Security Law, so Mr. Lai thought it necessary to have more of these opinions appear in Apple Daily.”

【14:31】 Court session began.

The prosecution continued to question the message sent by Jimmy Lai on July 15, 2020, commenting on the executive order signed by then US President Donald Trump. The prosecution provided a segment from Chan Pui-man’s statement recorded on November 9, 2022, mentioning her discussion with Lai about the aforementioned message.

After reading the statement, Chan added that at the time, Lai asked her to compile a list, “My understanding was something similar to a sanctions list.” She then discussed with other staff how to follow up, but thought it difficult for a newspaper to suggest such a list, “We found it hard to do through journalism,” hence the report ultimately focused on the impact of the executive order on Hong Kong.

The prosecution presented Apple Daily’s front-page report the next day, “Freedom stripped, no different from the mainland, Trump revokes Hong Kong’s special status.” Chan Pui-man confirmed “doing A1 (front page) is considered highlighting (the news)” and explained its placement on the front page “was also related to Mr. Lai valuing this news, so of course, we considered it an important news.”

【12:56】 Court adjourned.

【12:44】 Chan Pui-man returned to the stand to testify, stating she recorded her first statement in December 2021, and the second one likely between October and November 2022. The prosecution followed up on whether the second statement mentioned Jimmy Lai’s message sent on July 15 regarding then-President Donald Trump signing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and revoking Hong Kong’s special status, to which Chan replied, “Probably did,” and recalled confirming to the police that she had received the related information and followed up with reports. The prosecution further asked if showing her the statement would jog her memory, to which Chan agreed, “Looking back would remind me.”

The prosecution then asked Chan Pui-man to return to the waiting room to discuss related matters with all parties, planning to continue with Chan’s evidence after the lunch break.

【12:30】 The prosecution continued inquiring whether Jimmy Lai had specified targets for sanctions. Chan Pui-man stated, “My understanding is it was government officials of Hong Kong; I don’t remember others,” also noting Lai “didn’t specify exactly who,” and she “doesn’t remember” how Lai described the sanctions. The prosecution asked if providing Chan’s statement would refresh her memory, to which she responded affirmatively, but senior defense counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung raised concerns and asked Chan Pui-man to return to the waiting room for discussion with all parties involved.

【12:20】 The prosecution pointed out that Jimmy Lai sent Chan a message on July 15 about then-President Donald Trump signing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and revoking Hong Kong’s special treatment, including a link to the White House. Chan didn’t remember her conversation with Lai at that time but believed that Lai’s deliberate messaging indicated he valued this news highly. She also cited previous testimony that Lai would share his views on sanctions at “lunch box meetings,” suggesting foreign sanctions put pressure on mainland China and Hong Kong, “hoping to prevent the implementation of this National Security Law in Hong Kong.” After the National Security Law took effect, Lai continued inviting guests on “Live Chat” shows, “still holding the view that international pressure is effective.”

The prosecution asked Chan if she remembered the exact words Lai used during “lunch box meetings,” to which Chan said she forgot, but the gist was that the National Security Law’s content was more “serious” than imagined, and Lai was very nervous about it. Chan admitted being “a bit surprised” that Lai continued to host the program, “Actually, we were a bit surprised at that time,” she also consulted the company’s lawyer, “In any case, me and some colleagues were worried about continuing the content on Live Chat might be problematic under the National Security Law.” She learned that Cheung Kim-hung had expressed concerns to Lai, “but then Mr. Lai was seen continuing the program.”

【12:16】 Court session began.

【11:37】 Early break.

【11:20】The court displayed an Apple Daily publication from July 4 in the “Hot Topics of the Week” column titled “How severe are the US’s secondary financial sanctions,” with the prosecution noting two other articles about sanctions on the same page. Chan said the page was managed by Yeung Ching-Kee, the then chief writer, and everyone would suggest topics for “Hot Topics” during meetings. Yeung did not specifically explain why this topic was chosen, but Lai had written about sanctions in his column.

Chan stated she did not participate in selecting editorial and commentary authors, but from her observation, the chosen writers generally supported sanctions positively. She only once recommended a former Cable TV reporter familiar with policy and legislature to Yeung.

Before the early break, senior defense counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung clarified Chan’s morning claim that once Signal’s message destruction feature is activated, the message would disappear only on the phone of the user who activated the feature, pointing out that according to the testimony of expert witness Chow Kam-pui, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong, the message would disappear on every user’s phone. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping mentioned she uses Signal but has never used that feature. The defense also reminded the prosecution to be careful with their wording.

【10:52】 The prosecution continued to show Apple Daily reports on the July 1 National Security Law protests, including online news translated into English on the same day. Chan Pui-man confirmed that online version reporters went out to cover the protests, wrote the reports, and the English version would select some reports to translate into English.

On July 2, Apple Daily’s print newspaper published articles such as “Police ‘with a license’ commit rampant violence, injuring the innocent,” reporting on the protests from the previous day. Jimmy Lai posted a picture of that page on Twitter (now called X) that same day, accompanied by the text, “A ‘law’ that needs police brutality to assert its effectiveness lets us taste life under Communist rule.” In court, Chan Pui-man said she was unaware of Lai posting Apple Daily’s reports on Twitter.

On July 3, Jimmy Lai messaged Chan Pui-man, saying, “Simon Lee has informed me he can no longer manage my Twitter, please help me to post material on Twitter as much as possible every day,” and added, “Pui-man, I really X like your piece today!” Chan replied, “Thanks.” In court, Chan confirmed that “Simon Lee” was columnist Simon Lee (李兆富), who managed Lai’s Twitter, and she was unsure why or when he stopped managing Lai’s Twitter.

The prosecution continued with an Apple Daily article mentioning Simon Lee decided to “stop writing” in response to the National Security Law, and Lai stopped asking Li to manage his Twitter, describing, “Under the deterrence of the National Security Law, finding someone to handle Twitter is difficult, big trouble for Fat Lai.” Chan said she did not remember seeing this article and also could not recall the last time she saw Simon Lee in the Next Media building.

【10:27】Yesterday’s testimony mentioned that Cheung Kim-hung, the then publisher, established a “National Security Law Response Committee” WhatsApp group in June, which was moved to another messaging app, Signal, on July 1. Chan Pui-man explained that at that time, many had privacy concerns with WhatsApp and switched to other apps like Telegram and Signal, which allow messages to auto-destruct after a certain period, “We’re in media, unsure where the red line is drawn,” hence the move to Signal to discuss more sensitive topics.

The prosecution showed the Signal group’s messages, revealing the group’s auto-destruct feature was set for 6 hours. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang inquired whether the auto-destruct feature was a uniform setting or could be individually set by each member. Chan was uncertain, stating, “It’s been too long since I’ve handled a phone,” having “not used this communication software for over two and a half years,” but she mentioned “from what I remember,” Signal allows users to set their own destruction times.

The prosecution further stated that on July 2, 2020, Chan Pui-man set the auto-destruct feature for 6 hours, and on August 4, she changed it to one day. Chan said that after the National Security Law took effect, she communicated with Lai through Signal, though not as frequently as on WhatsApp. When asked why she used Signal’s auto-destruct feature, she responded, “the reason for using this app is because of that feature, there’s no other reason not to use it,” but she was unsure if Lai had a “special reason” for using Signal. Later, Chan felt “there really wasn’t much need to use Signal,” so she switched back to communicating with Lai via WhatsApp.

The prosecution, led by assistant director of public prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, continued with questioning. They presented an Apple Daily report from July 1, 2020, the day the National Security Law took effect, published across pages A12 and A13 titled “Supporting the evil law buries autonomy, counting the traitors of Hong Kong,” listing representatives to the NPC from Hong Kong, Executive Council members, government officials, and disciplinary forces as “traitors of Hong Kong,” describing “government officials flattering,” “LegCo yes-men,” and “leftist enforcers” facilitating the enactment of the National Security Law.

In court, Chan Pui-man explained that the report aimed to document the roles or positions of the aforementioned institutions or individuals from the drafting to the passing and enactment of the National Security Law. When the prosecution inquired whose idea it was to report this, Chan stated it was suggested during regular newspaper operation meetings, not remembering whose idea it was specifically, “but it was with my agreement.” The prosecution further asked if the report reflected Jimmy Lai’s stance, to which Chan agreed, “It does reflect his view on the matter.”

【10:02】Court Session Began

The prosecution, led by Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, continued with the questioning. They presented an Apple Daily report published on July 1, 2020, the day the National Security Law came into effect, spanning pages A12 and A13 titled “Supporting the evil law buries autonomy, counting the traitors of Hong Kong.” The report listed representatives of the NPC in Hong Kong, Executive Council members, government officials, and disciplinary forces as “traitors of Hong Kong,” describing “government officials flattering,” “LegCo yes-men,” and “leftist enforcers” facilitating the enactment of the Hong Kong National Security Law.

Chan Pui-man explained in court that the report aimed to document the roles or stances of the aforementioned institutions or individuals from the incubation to the passing and enactment of the National Security Law. When the prosecution inquired whose idea it was to report this, Chan stated it was proposed during a regular operational meeting of the newspaper, not remembering specifically whose idea it was, “but it was with my agreement.” The prosecution further asked if the report reflected Jimmy Lai’s stance, to which Chan agreed, “It does reflect his view on the matter.”

Ming Pao Reporters Celine Tam, Tong Bik-yu

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