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Day 42: March 11, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Jimmy Lai Case Day 42 Trial | Yeung Ching-kee: Apple Daily Often Called for Street Protests, Had ‘Three No’s’ Policy for ‘No Separation Between Peaceful and Valiant Protesters’

The founder of Next Digita, Jimmy Lai, and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case resumed its 42nd day of trial on Monday (11th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court) with the third accomplice witness, former Apple Daily Chief Editorial Writer Yeung Ching-kee, testifying for the sixth day.

The prosecution continued to question the perspective of the forum section writers, asking about Ben Rogers, the head of Hong Kong Watch, and the organization’s writing angle. Yeung stated that Hong Kong Watch is more concerned with the human rights situation in Hong Kong. The prosecution then asked about the angle regarding sanctions, but Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping interrupted, noting that the witness only mentioned human rights concerns, making the question leading.

Last Friday, the prosecution continued to question the angle of the forum section writers. Yeung confirmed that Martin Lee, the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, emphasized the rule of law in his articles and had expressed concerns about the National Security Law. Wu Chi-wai, the former chairman of the Democratic Party, supported protests and sanctions against former Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Additionally, Yeung mentioned that forum section articles translated into English did not require the author’s consent, and authors do not receive additional remuneration.

The case is presided over by designated National Security Law 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 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 Marc Corlett, a New Zealand Queen’s Counsel with practicing qualifications in Hong Kong.

15:08 Court Adjourned

14:52 Yeung: Apple Daily Often Called for Protests
“I don’t think it’s a good headline”

Yeung sent the editorial he wrote, “The United States Issues a Declaration of War, Hong Kong Stands Up to the Gunpoint,” to Lai in the evening. Yeung explained in court, “This editorial was written by me that night, and after finishing, I sent it to Mr. Lai to review. As far as I remember, he didn’t give any comments, and the newspaper published it the next day.”

The prosecution asked about Lai’s views on the anti-extradition bill protests in 2019, given that he became radical in 2018. Yeung said, “As the title of the editorial I gave to Mr. Lai suggests, the anti-extradition bill events that happened in 2019 really hit the gunpoint. When the US aimed its gun at China, Hong Kong stood up and blocked the gunpoint, presenting itself as a target for the US to shoot.”

The prosecution asked how this relates to the anti-extradition bill protests in 2019. Yeung said, “As I’ve mentioned before, I think Mr. Lai was once a successful businessman, good at grasping market and customer needs,” and added that when running the newspaper, he was also good at grasping the situation and market needs. “So when he saw the change in US policy towards China, he would adjust the newspaper’s stance.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked about the purpose of this. Yeung said, “I didn’t discuss the purpose with him. If I had to guess…,” but Judge Lee interrupted, saying he didn’t need to guess. The prosecution then asked him to state the changes he observed.

Yeung said, “During the anti-extradition bill protests, Apple Daily’s radical stance was well-known. In news reports, the words ‘protest’ were often seen. I don’t think it’s a good headline. You keep seeing ‘protest today, protest tomorrow, protest again today, protest again tomorrow…’ There were many such headlines.”

Yeung continued, “Mr. Lai’s column often called for people to protest. At first, there was a social controversy over ‘peaceful and brave,’ but from Mr. Lai’s column and reports, the whole Apple Daily’s stance was more tolerant and supportive.” He also mentioned that ‘peaceful and valiant’ had ‘three no’s’: no condemnation, no division, no snitching. “So, from the newspaper’s reports and comments, it was implementing these three no’s.”

The prosecution asked if there were any changes to the ‘three no’s’ policy after the implementation of the National Security Law. Yeung said, “I didn’t receive any instructions… Basically, there was no more mention of the ‘three no’s’, but there was no statement that the stance had changed.” The prosecution finished their main questioning. The defense senior barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung estimated two days for cross-examination and needed time to prepare. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping adjourned the case until Tuesday (12th) for continuation.

14:33 Prosecution Questions Yeung on Lai’s Message Claiming ‘The Timing is Perfect’
‘Now is the time to kick China when it’s down’

Regarding Yeung Ching-kee’s earlier testimony that in October 2018, during a conversation with Lai about then US Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at the Hudson Institute, Lai’s political stance became radical. Yeung also mentioned that Lai believed there was a clear shift in US policy towards China, “He grasped the change in this situation.” The prosecution showed a conversation between Yeung and Lai from October 5, 2018, where Yeung sent a “Voice of America” link and a summary of Pence’s speech to Lai, saying, “Boss, start with Pence’s speech. Mao’s stuff, find it later.” Lai replied, “Just listened to Pence’s speech. It’s anti-CCP. The US leading the West and Japan to readjust their policy towards China is more obvious than ever. This targets Xi’s current weakness, the timing is perfect!” “It’s kicking China when it’s down.”

Yeung said he didn’t remember why he sent the summary of Pence’s speech to Lai, “I remember it was Mr. Lai who brought up this matter.” He also explained the meaning of “the timing is perfect,” saying it should be understood together with Lai’s next sentence, “Xi Jinping is relatively weak, and the US is changing its policy towards China at this time. The timing is right to adjust the policy towards China. If you include the next sentence, it would be better, ‘kicking China when it’s down.'”

12:37 Lunch Break

12:26 Prosecution Questions on Published Articles
Yeung Ching-kee Confirms Articles Received in Letters from Jimmy Lai

Regarding the prosecution’s earlier display in court of a handwritten envelope dated March 20, 2020, sent by Zhao Xiaohua to Jimmy Lai, with an attached short essay titled “A Brief Discussion on Xi Jinping’s Governing Style” to be submitted to the Apple Daily forum section. The envelope included a handwritten note from Lai, “Brother Li Ping, I haven’t read his article, please see if it’s useful. Thank you, Lai.”

The prosecution showed an article published on April 2, 2020, titled “Xi Jinping’s Desired Governing Style – Freelance Writer – Zhao Xiaohua.” Yeung confirmed that it was the same article as the one attached to the letter, “I just changed the title.” Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping asked if Yeung made any changes to the content. Yeung said he didn’t.

12:02 Prosecution Questions on Jimmy Lai’s Articles
Yeung Ching-kee Says Content Reflects Lai’s View on Sanctions

The prosecution displayed two screenshots of Jimmy Lai’s Twitter, which retweeted articles by Ngan Shun-kau (pen name Fang Yuan) and former Apple Daily president Yeung Wai-hong (pen name Gu Li). Yeung Ching-kee confirmed that both articles reflected the views of Lai and Apple Daily, and described Ngan Shun-kau as “an author Mr. Lai particularly appreciates.”

The prosecution then showed an article from Lai’s column “Success and Failure with A Laugh,” titled “Time is a Weapon,” pointing out that Yeung previously testified that the article mentioned sanctions. After reading the article, Yeung quoted, “I also don’t believe that sanctions by the US and other Western countries against the CCP will ease. The relationship between the CCP and Western countries like the US is irreversibly damaged for now.” He stated, “I understand this as Mr. Lai’s judgment on the situation of sanctions.”

Another article from Lai’s column, “The Great Era is Coming,” Yeung said, mentioned “the economic damage brought by sanctions from Western countries will definitely be very significant.” It also discussed the consequences of sanctions, “Of course, this may just be a false alarm, but the results will only be known in a few years… The economic and political losses caused by the CCP’s confrontation with the US are too great, even to the extent of challenging the legitimacy of the CCP regime. Without economic stability, the CCP cannot maintain its regime. The substantial and confidence damage caused by the confrontation with the US signifies that the CCP is headed for disaster.”

Yeung stated that the above paragraph shows, “Mr. Lai definitely affirmed the effectiveness of sanctions,” and confirmed that the two articles reflect Lai’s views on sanctions.

11:20 Short Break

10:48 Prosecution Questions Yeung Ching-kee on Contributors Sang Pu, Simon Lau Sai Leung, Edward Chin, and “An Yu”(安裕)

The prosecution mentioned another author, Sang Pu, whom Yeung Ching-kee described as a freelance contributor who occasionally submitted articles to the forum section. Yeung sometimes also asks him to respond to news. Yeung described him as “more radical” and aware that Sang Pu’s online articles openly support Hong Kong independence. However, Yeung stated, “I don’t support Hong Kong independence in the forum section, so when I use his articles, the topics won’t involve the issue of Hong Kong independence.”

The prosecution showed a message between Chan Pui-man and Yeung Ching-kee, with Chan asking, “Does Sang Pu have a regular column? The boss suggested asking him to write. Is there a spot in the forum?” Yeung replied, “His articles are weird, and he openly advocates for Hong Kong independence, so I’ve never dared to let him start a column. Otherwise, whether we publish his submissions or not, it would be troublesome.” Chan suggested, “Maybe ask him to write something more lifestyle-oriented for Ming Cai.”

The prosecution inquired about what “Ming Cai” refers to. Yeung explained that “Ming Cai” is a feature column in the supplement section, which has been part of “Apple Daily” since its inception, “Jimmy Lai’s column is also in the Ming Cai section,” typically published on Sundays.

Yeung also confirmed that Simon Lau Sai-leung was a columnist for the forum section. At the time, Chan Pui-man relayed Jimmy Lai’s instructions to invite Simon Lau Sai-leung to replace Lee Yee’s column. The prosecution asked if Lai knew Lee Yee. Yeung believed Lai knew him, “They both frequently encountered each other in the company. Lee Yee was once the chief editorial writer for ‘Apple Daily,’ so it’s impossible for Lai not to know him.”

Yeung mentioned that Lee Yee had written editorials. Upon hearing this, the prosecution asked who wrote editorials first, Lee Yee or Fung Wai-kong? Yeung said, “‘Apple Daily’ sometimes has several chief editorial writers at the same time. I don’t know who started first between the two of them.”

Regarding Hong Kong financial expert Edward Chin, Yeung said he was once a columnist, “He was already a columnist before I took over the forum section.” Yeung suspended his column around 2018 but later used his submissions a couple of times after the implementation of the National Security Law, “Because there were fewer authors after the law, and we didn’t have enough articles, we used his submissions once or twice.”

As for the columnist “An Yu,” Yeung said he is a veteran media professional who reduced his writing after the implementation of the National Security Law due to concerns about crossing red lines. He described An Yu as familiar with American politics and supportive of the pro-democracy camp.

10:30 Prosecution Presents Multiple Articles for Inquiry on Writing Perspectives

The prosecution presented an article written by Glacier Kwong Chung-ching on January 28, 2021, titled “Why people reckon upon Germany speaking up against human right violations.” Yeung Ching-kee stated, “I don’t know this author; I occasionally see their articles in the English section,” and he didn’t have any particular impression of their writing perspective.

The prosecution also presented an article written by Kin-hing Chris Yeung, the chief editorial writer of “Citizen News,” on March 31, 2021, titled “National Security Law targets small, but hits big.” Yeung Ching-kee mentioned that Kin-hing Chris Yeung was the chairman of the Journalists Association at the time, “I have asked him to write articles; he is a freelance writer.” He also described him as “strongly emphasizing press freedom, supporting press freedom.” The displayed article came from the English section, not translated from the Chinese section.

The prosecution further presented articles written by Joseph Long titled “A growing threat” and by Michael Cox titled “Time for UK to bring HSBC to heel.” Yeung stated that he did not know these two authors.

Regarding the columnist “Li Shimin” (Simon Lee), Yeung said he was a columnist for the forum section of “Apple Daily,” “His articles are mostly related to economics, analyzing political and social issues from an economic perspective.” Yeung described, “Actually, I and my colleagues, as well as readers, find it boring; no particular article left a deep impression on me.” He also mentioned that his political stance clearly supported the pro-democracy camp, and his views were consistent with Jimmy Lai’s, “Lai asked him to manage the Twitter account.” Yeung was not sure if he had written for the English section.

10:05 Prosecution Inquires About the Writing Perspective of “Hong Kong Watch”
Yeung Ching-kee: More Focused on Hong Kong Human Rights

On the sixth day of his testimony, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan continued to question Yeung Ching-kee about the perspectives of forum section writers. The prosecution presented an article written by Sam Goodman, Senior Policy Advisor of “Hong Kong Watch,” titled “Canada Joins the Lifeboat Scheme,” dated November 24, 2020, and asked Yeung if he was familiar with “Hong Kong Watch.” Yeung stated, “I know of the organization, but I’m not very clear about its operations.” He also mentioned that the above article was forwarded to him by an English section colleague, “The author provided both English and Chinese versions.”

The prosecution then displayed a message from November 21, 2020, between Yeung and former chief editor Fung Wai-kong (pen name Lo Fung), in which Fung mentioned, “Hi Qingqi, Ben Rogers said he is giving us an op-ed, in English and Chinese, by his colleague Sam Goodman, about Canada’s new lifeboat scheme. We will use the English version next week. They have a Chinese version, are you interested?”

The prosecution asked who Ben Rogers is. Yeung replied that he is the person in charge of “Hong Kong Watch,” known for writing articles in the English section, “I don’t remember him writing for the Chinese section.” When asked about the writing perspective of Rogers and “Hong Kong Watch,” Yeung said that “Hong Kong Watch” is more focused on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. The prosecution then asked about their stance on sanctions, but Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping interrupted, pointing out that the witness only mentioned human rights, and the question was a leading question.

The prosecution then asked if Rogers and “Hong Kong Watch” had any other writing perspectives. Yeung responded, “I don’t pay much attention to his articles, so I can’t draw a conclusion.”

10:00 Court resumed.

The Witness

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