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Day 34: February 28, 2024

Ming Pao: 【Continuous Update】Jimmy Lai Case | Police claimed “not targeting journalistic materials” during Apple Daily search, Chan Pui-man believed it was unrelated to reporting (14:25)

Yesterday was the 33rd day of the trial involving Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Media, and three related companies of Apple Daily, accused of conspiring to collude with foreign forces. Chan Pui-man, the former Associate Publisher of Apple Daily, continued her testimony and faced cross-examination by the defense for the second day. The defense mainly focused on Jimmy Lai’s editorial instructions to Apple Daily, arguing that even when he suggested interviewing former Democratic Party Chairman Lee Wing-tat, it was just a suggestion, and the final decision on reporting rested with Chan Pui-man. However, Chan denied this, stating, “It’s hard for me to ignore it.”

Chan also confirmed that the decision to publish the front-page article “MTR Massive Arrests Lead to Yuen Long Terror Attack 2.0, Raptors Squad Indiscriminately Beats Citizens” the day after the “8.31 Prince Edward Station” incident was made by her and her deputy, Lam Man-chung. She mentioned that both were aware that Jimmy Lai valued news on “police brutality,” and she had never heard Lai advocate for or oppose Hong Kong independence.

In August 2020, when the police searched Apple Daily’s premises, Chan mentioned that the police claimed at the time that they were “not targeting journalistic materials,” and that suspects like Andy Li were not related to Apple Daily at that time, so she thought the incident was unrelated to Apple Daily’s reporting.

Ming Pao Live Text Coverage of the Trial

【15:05】 Court adjourned.

【14:55】 The defense mentioned Cheung Kim-hung’s speech at the staff meeting on May 10, 2021, and asked Chan Pui-man if she agreed with Cheung’s statement that “we are not breaking the law, we are not a criminal organization.” Chan Pui-man said she believed Cheung’s statement at the time. The defense also asked about Cheung mentioning that Jimmy Lai wrote letters from prison reminding frontline staff to be careful in their work. Chan Pui-man responded, “But he (Cheung) also mentioned that it doesn’t mean backing down, Cheung also said it doesn’t equal backing down.”

The defense revealed to the judge that only one last segment of questioning the witness remained and requested time for the defense to organize the evidence. The judge then postponed the trial until tomorrow at the defense’s request.

【14:30】 Court resumed in the afternoon. The defense revisited Jimmy Lai’s speech during the 25th anniversary celebration of Apple Daily, where he told the staff, “No one will force you to do anything,” “No one can use you, force you to become a martyr.” Chan Pui-man responded, “I think it’s a very vague statement, staying here to work is your own decision.” The defense further asked that at that time, Jimmy Lai only said “I will hang in” instead of calling on others to “hang in” together, but Chan Pui-man claimed, “In my memory, he did tell company colleagues to hang in there.”

The defense then presented an article about Jimmy Lai, where he said, “I will hang in, but I won’t tell others outside to hang in,” showing that Lai did not call on others to “hang in.” However, Chan Pui-man pointed out that the context in which Lai made the above statement was during the primary election case, and she believes that Lai has friends in the political and social activism circles, so the “hanging in” with a high cost he referred to should be directed at those friends.

【13:00】 Lunch break.

【12:30】The defense pointed out that Chan Pui-man should be aware that she needs to avoid violating the National Security Law. Chan Pui-man stated, “Yes, I have mentioned this in my previous testimony, so I was a bit surprised by Jimmy Lai’s Live Chat program.” The defense added that the program and Jimmy Lai’s posts on Twitter were taken down afterward.

The defense further asked about Chan Pui-man’s testimony yesterday, where she mentioned that she did not believe what Apple Daily did was illegal. Chan Pui-man answered that when the police arrested Jimmy Lai in August 2020 and entered the newspaper’s premises for a search, the police’s statement was that “it was not targeting journalistic materials,” and since the suspects involved, such as Andy Li, were not related to Apple Daily at that time, she thought the incident was unrelated to Apple Daily’s reporting.

The defense also asked if Jimmy Lai had ever instructed Chan Pui-man to do anything that would violate the National Security Law. Chan Pui-man said, “You could say that,” but added that Apple Daily colleagues would assist in publishing Jimmy Lai’s column articles and Live Chat programs, “Of course, we didn’t know it would be illegal when we published them, but they were published anyway.” The defense followed up by asking if Chan Pui-man would not publish an article if she knew it was illegal. Chan Pui-man replied, “Cheung Kim-hung did mention that we should be careful, but we basically wouldn’t alter Jimmy Lai’s articles, and we wouldn’t be involved in Live Chat at all.”

The defense mentioned another headline article from Apple Daily, “US Sanctions List: Han Zheng, Carrie Lam, PK Teng on the List,” stating that the sanctions list in the article came from a Bloomberg News article. The questioning on this matter will continue in the afternoon.

【12:05】Court resumed. The defense brought up the topic of Jimmy Lai’s involvement in Apple Daily’s operations after 2014. Chan Pui-man agreed that Jimmy Lai stepped down as chairman that year, and Apple Daily experienced losses in the fiscal years from 2015 to 2018 until Jimmy Lai took over as chairman again in 2019, and Apple Daily began to turn losses into profits.

The defense also mentioned that generally, a newspaper’s advertising revenue is twice the profit from newspaper sales. Before March 2019, former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying launched a campaign against Apple Daily, publishing the names of companies that advertised in Apple Daily on his personal Facebook page, causing those companies to stop advertising in Apple Daily and resulting in a significant drop in advertising revenue. Chan Pui-man responded, “I remember what you mentioned earlier caused a decrease in advertising, but I don’t remember the extent and how it compares to sales and newspaper circulation.”


【10:56】The defense pointed out that in July 2019, Chan Pui-man actively contacted then chief editor Yeung Ching-Kee multiple times, including sending reader submissions related to social movements to him, which were eventually handled as breaking news. This reflects that Chan would make suggestions and Yeung would make his own decisions. However, Chan said, “I didn’t give him suggestions; I received reader submissions and forwarded them to him.” The defense then asked if forwarding submissions to others is similar to Jimmy Lai forwarding press releases to Chan Pui-man, with the only difference being that Jimmy Lai is the boss. Chan said, “Yes, although Yeung would ask me to sign when he was on leave, I didn’t give him any instructions on how to handle the forum.”

Following this, the defense showed another message about Yeung Ching-Kee describing a writer named “Sang Pu” as having “weird articles and openly advocating for Hong Kong independence, so we’ve never dared to let him have a column, otherwise, whether to publish it or not would be troublesome.” Chan responded that at that time, Jimmy Lai mentioned to Cheung Kim-hung that Sang Pu should write articles for Apple Daily’s forum. After Yeung Ching-Kee learned of this instruction indirectly, he expressed reservations about Sang Pu, and eventually, Cheung Kim-hung decided not to hire Sang Pu due to legal risks.

The defense then asked, based on Chan’s many years of knowing Jimmy Lai, whether she would agree that Jimmy Lai has never advocated for Hong Kong independence. Chan thought for a moment and said, “I’ve never heard him advocate for that.” The defense followed up by asking if Jimmy Lai would express opposition to Hong Kong independence. Chan replied that she had never discussed the topic of Hong Kong independence with Jimmy Lai and did not remember whether he had ever said, “I oppose Hong Kong independence.”

【10:34】The defense continued questioning, noting from WhatsApp messages that the front-page headline “MTR’s Mass Arrest Leads to Yuen Long Terror Attack 2.0, Raptor Squad Indiscriminately Beats Citizens” following the “8.31 Prince Edward Station” incident was decided by Chan Pui-man and her deputy Lam Man-chung. Chan agreed that it was her decision to publish it on the front page because she personally believed the “8.31 Prince Edward Station” incident had news value. The defense then asked if the decision was based on her dissatisfaction with “police brutality.” Chan replied, “Yes, but both Lam Man-chung and I knew that Jimmy Lai placed great importance on news about police brutality.”

【10:00】Court began. The defense pointed out that from the example in May 2018, where Jimmy Lai suggested that Chan Pui-man should find retired police officers and former ICAC investigators to write for Apple Daily and later suggested she interview Lee Wing-tat, it shows that Jimmy Lai only made suggestions for Chan to consider. However, Chan denied this and said, “He spoke very politely, but if he personally proposed something, it was hard for me to ignore it,” especially since Cheung Kim-hung would ask her to follow up on the matters raised by Jimmy Lai, so she would treat them as tasks to be executed.

The defense also presented another example, where Jimmy Lai forwarded a press release from Benedict Rogers to Chan, which was only because Rogers is a friend of Jimmy Lai. However, the final decision on whether to report it was up to Chan. Chan countered, saying that she understood “Jimmy Lai, as our boss, was recommending that we publish this press release” and that Jimmy Lai placed great importance on news about Rogers and his organization “Hong Kong Watch.”

Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios asked if it was possible that Jimmy Lai was not giving instructions, but Chan’s personal feeling was that they were instructions. Chan said the possibility was not high because if Jimmy Lai did not place importance on Rogers and the organization, he could have let Rogers contact the editors of Apple Daily directly.

Ming Pao Reporters Celine Tam, Tong Bik-yu

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