Trial began December 18, 2023. Support Jimmy Lai today.

Show your support by using the hashtag #FreeJimmyLai

Day 35: February 29, 2024

The Witness: Day 35 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Defense Argues “Lunchbox Meeting” Mainly Discussed Business, Chan Pui-man Says News Angles Were Also Discussed

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other crimes. The case continued its 35th day of trial on Thursday (February 29th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), with the second prosecution witness, former Apple Daily vice president Chan Pui-man, continuing her testimony.

The defense pointed out to Chan that Jimmy Lai established the “Lunchbox Meeting” in 2018 to collect employee opinions and discuss business or improve newspaper content, rather than giving editorial instructions. Chan said she “doesn’t quite agree” and believes that Lai would touch on news angles during discussions, such as requesting more interviews with protesters in 2019 and asking the Chinese edition to cover more on the mainland’s concealment of the pandemic’s origin. Chan also described Lai as having strong opinions and being “decisive.” The case will continue on Friday (March 1st).

The case is presided over by High Court judges designated under the National Security Law: 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 Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions 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 with Hong Kong practicing qualifications.

Defense: Lai used “Lunchbox Meeting” to collect employee opinions
Chan: and to express his political idologies

Chan Pui-man, on her 14th day of testimony, continued to be cross-examined by Senior Counsel Robert Pang. The defense focused on the “Lunchbox Meeting,” stating that Jimmy Lai’s involvement with Apple Daily increased in 2018 when employee morale was low. He hoped to establish a channel for communication with employees to collect their opinions, thus creating the “Lunchbox Meeting.” Chan confirmed that after Lai held the “Lunchbox Meeting,” the cafeteria services were improved, but she also mentioned that Lai used the meeting to talk about “business” and political ideologies.

Chan agreed under cross-examination that all departments of Apple Daily had “Lunchbox Meetings,” such as the newspaper and online editions. Employees would raise questions on the work platform “Slack” a few days before the meeting, and Lai would follow up and discuss them during the meeting. She added, “But I have a feeling that if Lai is not interested in a topic, he would lightly skip over it. Lai is a person with strong opinions. If he wants to talk about a topic, he will talk more about his views.”

Chan: “Lunchbox Meeting” touched on news angles
Lai has personal views and is “decisive”

The defense showed a screenshot of Slack records where Lai asked colleagues for their opinions on making the newspaper more magazine-like. The then Executive Editor Lam Man-chung made suggestions, and Lai replied that they would “discuss it later.” Chan confirmed that Lam’s suggestions were eventually discussed at the “Lunchbox Meeting,” and when Lai replied to Lam, “he would definitely touch on what he thinks about it, whether he thinks it’s good or not, so actually, it would involve discussing news angles.”

Chan continued, “As the boss, when Lai expressed his opinion at the ‘Lunchbox Meeting,’ our so-called follow-up is to follow up on what he agreed on. On the contrary, if he feels that something is not necessary or uninteresting during the meeting, it becomes something we wouldn’t particularly follow up on.” She emphasized, “As I said before, Lai has strong opinions and can be quite assertive at times, so we actually follow his final decision.”

Chan disagrees that Lai did not give editorial instructions

The defense pointed out that the purpose of the “Lunchbox Meeting” was to discuss business or improve newspaper content, not to give editorial instructions. Chan said she “doesn’t quite agree,” believing that Lai would naturally touch on how to improve the newspaper when discussing with editorial staff. The defense further pointed out that Lai never instructed reporters what to report or not to report. Chan responded, “He rarely says what not to report.”

Chan explained that if major news events occurred, such as the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests or the pandemic, those topics would definitely be reported, and Lai would touch on related content during meetings. She gave an example, saying Lai would ask for interviews with protesters, “He wouldn’t say to interview a specific protester; he would talk about the direction, like wanting to know more about the person’s thoughts.”

She gave another example, saying Lai mentioned columnists for the forum section during meetings and asked the Chinese edition to cover more on the mainland’s concealment of the epidemic’s origin during the pandemic. He also wanted reporters to interview more people who questioned the concealment, like whistleblower Li Wenliang. Chan reiterated that in addition to discussing business and how to improve the newspaper, Lai would also discuss news angles at the “Lunchbox Meeting.”

The Witness

Stand up for Jimmy Lai

In a democracy, every voice matters. Click below to add your voice and share this message.