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Day 41: March 8, 2024

The Witness: Live Update: 41st Day of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – Yeung Ching-kee States that He Decided the Topics for the Forum Section

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital, and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The trial continued for the 41st day on Friday (March 8) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). Yeung Ching-kee, the third accomplice witness and former chief editorial writer of Apple Daily, testified for the fifth day.

Yeung mentioned that columnists and freelance writers of the forum section wrote in Chinese, and then “colleagues from the English edition would translate the articles they selected.” He stated that when forum articles were translated into English, it generally did not require the authors’ consent, and the authors did not receive additional fees for the translation. He also confirmed that the topics for the forum section are mainly decided by him, with occasional input from his superiors, Lam Man-chung and Chan Pui-man.

Yeung testified on Thursday that when Lai requested changes to the writers for the forum section, “I work here, so I have to execute the instructions.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked why Yeung still followed Lai’s instructions when Lai had no official position at Apple Daily from 2019 to 2020. Yeung described Lai as a “generous boss, but also a ruthless boss,” because Lai had distributed stocks to senior management, making them millionaires or even billionaires. However, Lai also “used people to the fullest… If someone didn’t meet his expectations, they would be replaced quickly… I wanted to stay at Apple Daily, so I had to follow his instructions.”

11:57 Court adjourned

The case will continue next Monday.

11:40 Prosecution questions about Deming Gu’s article

The prosecution presented another article by forum section writer Deming Gu, titled “Under the National Security Law, Only Putting Down the Pen Remains,” published on July 6, 2020. Yeung confirmed that the article was published in the forum section and that Gu also wrote for the Apple Daily supplement. Yeung described Gu’s articles as having a unique perspective, often using ancient times to satirize the present, and being critical of authoritarian politics and human rights violations. Yeung recalled that when he took over the forum section, Gu was already writing for Apple Daily.

The prosecution also mentioned another article by writer Lin Thung-hong, titled “Lam Chau Hongkongers, Does Beijing Lose the World?” published on August 12, 2020. The prosecution showed the article’s webpage on Taiwan Apple and the webpage of the English version on Hong Kong Apple. Yeung confirmed that the article was published on Taiwan Apple, and Lin never wrote for Hong Kong Apple. The prosecution asked if the English edition department would translate articles from the Taiwan Apple forum section. Yeung said, “I don’t know if they have communicated.”

11:19 Prosecution asks if Ryan Law Wai-kwong was involved in the English online edition work

The prosecution continued to question another writer, Wu Chi-wai, the then chairman of the Democratic Party, about his article “The Return of the Cultural Revolution and the Cold War between China and Hong Kong” published on May 28, 2020. Yeung confirmed in court that Wu was a freelance writer for Apple Daily and that Yeung would also ask him to respond to certain breaking news. Yeung described Wu’s articles from 2019 to 2020 as supporting the protests and sanctioning the former Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The prosecution then cited a conversation between Ryan Law Wai-kwong and Yeung on November 18, 2020, in which Law forwarded a document from Wu, stating, “Wu Chi-wai has a resignation speech, is there room in the forum section? Otherwise, the online forum is also fine, because I want it to be in English at the same time, please let me know if there is a schedule for publication.” Law also mentioned, “The English version will be published on the same day.”
The prosecution asked if Law was involved in the work of the English online edition. Yeung said that as the editor-in-chief of the online edition, Law should have been involved in his duties, but Yeung was not clear about the actual operation of the English edition. The prosecution then showed an electronic version of Wu Chi-wai’s article, which included a drawing of President Xi Jinping. Yeung recalled that the related image could be drawn by his colleagues in the art department.

10:49 Court adjourned
10:15 Yeung: Articles forwarded by management are mostly published

The prosecution showed a message between Yeung and Lam Man-chung on January 21, 2020, in which Lam forwarded a document titled “One Country, Two Systems: Hong Kong Acts, Taiwan Watches,” indicated as a submission by Lew Mon-hung. Yeung said in court that he would consider it as an “article instructed by my superiors to publish,” and unless there were individual problems, it would mostly be published in most cases. Yeung confirmed that these articles provided by other senior executives all conformed to Lai’s views, “because the senior executives are all clear about Lai’s views.”

The prosecution then showed a message sent by Lam on April 23 of the same year, stating, “Friend Martin has an article he wants to publish in the forum section,” along with the article “Jiang Qing’s Famous Words – The Chairman Tells Me Who to Bite.” Yeung said, “Martin” refers to Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, and confirmed that the article was published in the forum section the next day.

The prosecution then showed Martin Lee’s article “The Rise and Fall of the Rule of Law, Everyone’s Responsibility” published on May 20, 2020. The prosecution asked about Lee’s writing perspective from 2019 to 2021. Yeung described that Lee’s articles emphasized the rule of law and adhered more to the original interpretation of “One Country, Two Systems.” Lee also expressed concerns about the National Security Law.

The prosecution further asked if Lee’s articles were translated into English. Yeung said he didn’t remember. The prosecution then showed a tweet from Lai on August 13, 2020, featuring the title of Martin Lee’s article in the English version. Lai also retweeted a tweet from Apple Daily on November 6, 2020, with the text “As Martin points out #CCP can’t face its own identity and legitimacy crisis and the ugly truth…” Yeung explained in court that he was not involved in the selection and translation work of the English edition, “So I saw what I saw, but I have no impression of how… This article was not provided by me to Mr. Lai.”

09:50 Yeung states that he decided the topics for the forum section

The prosecution presented the weekly topic of the forum section on July 18, 2020, which was “Escalation of US-China Confrontation,” composed of articles by three authors, including “Research Director at the Hong Kong Zhi Ming Institute – Hui Ching” with “The South China Sea Battle – The First Step in the Global Strategic Confrontation between the US and China,” “Professor of International Political Economy at City University of New York – Xia Ming” with “Nonsense in the Rose Garden,” and “US-based writer – Yi Jian Piao Chen” with “Will the US Sanction Carrie Lam?”

Yeung recalled that at the time, on July 14, then-US President Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, so he decided to “respond accordingly” by choosing the topic for that day. Yeung said that usually after deciding on a topic, he would mostly look for authors to write about it, “meaning I would start with the authors who are good at writing certain types of commentary, and occasionally use submissions from freelance writers that fit the theme.”

The prosecution then asked if the topic “Escalation of US-China Confrontation” was discussed in relation to sanctions when Yeung attended the planning meeting before its publication. Yeung said that he would generally report on important news for the week at the Tuesday planning meeting, “so there would be some exchange. However, colleagues wouldn’t comment on the topics I proposed, only Lam Man-chung and Chan Pui-man would give some opinions, as they are my direct superiors.”

The prosecution also showed the front page of Apple Daily the day before the publication of the related topic, “US Sanctions List: Han Zheng, Carrie Lam, PK Deng on the List.” Yeung confirmed that this front page was related to the content of the Saturday topic published the next day. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if, for the topic “Escalation of US-China Confrontation” published on July 18, Yeung had anticipated the upcoming US sanctions list when he attended the planning meeting on July 14. Yeung said that at the time, he did not know the sanctions list, but he knew that Trump had signed the bill on July 14.

09:35 Yeung: No need for author’s consent to translate forum articles into English

Former chief editor of Apple Daily, Yeung Ching-kee, continued to be questioned by prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan. The prosecution asked about the forum section writers mentioned on Thursday, showing a conversation between Fung Wai-kong and Yeung. In it, Yeung forwarded a message from veteran journalist Allan Au to Fung, mentioning that Au suggested using the title “veteran journalist” instead of a title related to the Chinese University when his article was translated. Yeung added in response to the question that columnists and freelance writers of the forum section write in Chinese, and “the English edition colleagues would translate whichever articles they found suitable,” including Allan Au’s articles.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if the consent of the authors was needed when forum articles were translated into English. Yeung said it was not required, and he also mentioned that there had been complaints from authors about “poor translation” of their articles into English. Authors also did not receive additional fees when their articles are translated into English.

The Witness

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