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Day 44: March 13, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | 44th Day of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Andy Li: Met Chan Tsz-wah on TG, Discussed Advertisement Plan to Bring Protest Scenes to International Stage

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 entered its 44th day of trial on Wednesday (March 13) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The prosecution called the fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li, one of the “12 Hongkongers” and a member of “Hong Kong Story,” to testify.

Andy Li claimed that in June 2019, he got to know another defendant who pleaded guilty in the same case, Chan Tsz-wah, via Telegram, and referred to him as T at that time. The two discussed an advertisement plan before the G20 summit, aiming to bring Hong Kong’s “eye-catching protest scenes” and the momentum they generated to the international stage to draw international attention.

Li also mentioned that after launching a crowdfunding campaign, T offered to help with any “money-related matters.” Li explained that due to the time required for transferring funds after crowdfunding, someone needed to advance the advertisement fees. He had already used up his savings of HK$3 million to cover the costs, but it was still not enough to pay for the advertisements.

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 Prosecuting Officer Crystal Chan Wing-sum; Jimmy Lai is represented by Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand King’s Counsel Marc Corlett with Hong Kong practicing qualifications.

16:21 Court adjourned

16:00 Li: Chan asked for a promissory note, citing concerns from “people above” about defaulting on payment

Li recalled that at that time, Chan arranged for him to sign a “promissory note,” which was in July of the same year when the G20 advertisement campaign had already been completed. Li asked Chan how to repay, and Chan indicated that “there are some people above him, he used the term ‘people above,'” who were worried but could not immediately provide an account for Li to transfer the money. As a temporary solution, Chan then arranged a meeting with Li in Admiralty, and Chan brought two witnesses with him. The two of them signed a “promissory note” on the spot, “stating that I owe T money, and the amount is exactly the figure for the G20 that his side had calculated, which is about 1.5 to 1.6 million (1.5 to 1.6 million) Hong Kong dollars,” and the related promissory note was taken to the law firm arranged by Chan.

Li described that at that time, Chan said “this promissory note is for backup, because it is used to ‘settle’ the ‘people above’ he mentioned at that time,” because “those ‘people above’ said they were under pressure to do something to ensure the money would return, so since there is a promissory note, T can tell them ‘Look! There is a promissory note now, so no need to worry about defaulting on payment.'” Li continued that later in July, Chan provided him with an account held by the company “Chartwell,” instructing Li to transfer the money to this account, and Li then repaid about 1.5 to 1.6 million dollars to “Chartwell.”

The prosecution then displayed a receipt issued by The Washington Post, showing the advertiser as Andy Li, issued on June 27, 2019, with a payment of 85,000 US dollars. The prosecution quoted a receipt issued by Meridian, and Li described that the document showed that “Lais Hotel” transferred 85,000 US dollars to The Washington Post, and Chan handed the documents to him.

15:30 Prosecution focuses on who advanced the advertisement fees; Li says Chan did not mention

The prosecution continued to display the advertisement and related receipts from the French newspaper Le Monde, and also displayed a receipt issued by Meridian Credit Union, showing an amount of 26,000 euros. Li stated that the related receipt was provided by Chan Tsz-wah. The prosecution then displayed another advertisement and receipt from the French newspaper Le Parisien, involving 18,000 euros, and showed records also issued by Meridian Credit Union. The prosecution asked Li if Chan had told him who paid for these advertisements. Li said no.

Regarding the advertisement published in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, the displayed receipt showed that the payment of 20,000 euros was made by Dico Consulting Limited on June 27, 2019. Li stated that the receipt was provided by Chan, but Chan did not introduce the Dico company to him.

The prosecution continued to display a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post, and Li confirmed that the advertisement was published as an open letter. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping inquired who drafted the open letter. Li said he did not know, as he did not participate in the design. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Li had discussed the content of the advertisement on Telegram at that time. Li said that at that time, everyone “wanted to publish in the newspaper,” and then “some people went to find newspapers, some people went to design advertisements, write these texts, I went to do crowdfunding, so I’m not sure which team member was doing what.” Alex Lee Wan-tang inquired about the number of team members involved in the action. Li said he was not sure, as he was focusing on crowdfunding at that time, and there were accountants auditing the crowdfunding, Chan and related people advancing advertisement fees, and the user “家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni)” posting on the forum LiHKG. Li added that the “people on Chan’s side” mainly included Chan himself, a person named “banker,” and the person who later signed the loan agreement, totaling about 4 or 5 people.

15:00 Prosecution follows up on who “uncle” is
The defense interrupts, claiming the questioning involves hearsay evidence

The prosecution displayed an advertisement published in The Guardian and related receipts, showing that the receipt was issued to Andy Li on June 28, 2019, with a cost of 18,000 pounds. Li confirmed. The prosecution then displayed another “outgoing wire transfer request” issued by Meridian Credit Union, showing that the payer was “Lais Hotel Properties Limited” based in Canada, issued in the name of Andy Li. Li explained in court that the document was a receipt for the payment of 18,000 pounds to The Guardian by “Lais Hotel.”

The prosecution asked, Li previously claimed that Chan Tsz-wah would look for people to advance advertisement fees. Li said that at that time, Chan indicated that 5 million dollars were reserved for use. The prosecution continued to ask, did Chan then explain who controlled “Lais Hotel” or why they would be willing to advance the funds? Li said no to all questions, and he also did not ask Chan. The prosecution wanted to ask, according to Li’s understanding, who was the “uncle” that Chan mentioned would pay? Marc Corlett, the New Zealand King’s Counsel representing Lai, interrupted, pointing out that the question involved hearsay evidence. The prosecution did not pursue further.

14:35 Prosecution inquires about details of payment for advertisements

The prosecution circled around details of the advertisement campaign, first displaying the advertisement in Le Parisien, with the headline “Say No to China’s Extradition Law,” and the article was published as an open letter, signed by “Hong Kong Citizens,” “Supporting Hong Kong at G20.” Li confirmed that the related advertisement was published on June 28, 2019.

The prosecution sequentially displayed advertisements published in various newspapers, with the ad titled “Stand with Hong Kong at G20,” including in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera. Li described that there was only one Italian-language advertisement and confirmed that the related advertisement was published. The prosecution then displayed an advertisement in the South Korean newspaper The Dong-a Ilbo, also in the form of an open letter, signed by Hong Kong citizens to South Korean citizens. Li confirmed that the related advertisement was published.

The prosecution also displayed another advertisement published in The Australian and related payment records, with receipts issued by the company Nationwide News on June 26, 2019, for a full-page advertisement, issued to a person named “Anson Cheung,” with a total amount of about 45,600 Australian dollars. The prosecution then displayed Li’s account records, and Li described that he sold about 250,000 Hong Kong dollars from his account and bought 45,600 Australian dollars, directly transferring the Australian dollars, confirming that it was used to pay for the advertisement fees.

12:56 Break for lunch

12:40 The court displays a list of global advertisement revenues and expenses

The court saw the “Crowdfunding G20 Open Letter in Newspapers Worldwide” revenue and expense list, with an income of 6.73 million dollars in donations and expenses including approximately 5.96 million dollars in advertising fees, including ads on June 27, 2019, in the UK’s The Guardian, Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung, Canada’s The Globe and Mail, and Politico Europe.

On June 28, 2019, the involved media included the USA’s The Washington Post, The New York Times, Taiwan’s Apple Daily, Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun, The Japan Times, France’s Le Monde, Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter, etc.

The newspapers involved the following day included the UK’s The Times, Spain’s El Mundo, etc. The report also showed that online advertisement costs were about HK$ 60,000.

The prosecution pointed out that the document mentioned advertising on Facebook and Google. Li claimed in court that some group members proposed advertising on Facebook and Google, so the remaining “not very large amount” from the advertisement budget was used there. “Because it was estimated that we couldn’t buy another physical newspaper ad, but this crowdfund promised to place some international ads, so we added this Google, FB ads.” The prosecution cited that there was about 150,000 dollars in remaining funds? Li confirmed.

The displayed document was signed by accountant Tony Man, and “crowdfunder” was signed by Tony Lo. Li explained in court that Tony Lo is his pen name, and an accountant was hired for auditing at that time.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if the related documents were made public at the time? Li said that after July 16, 2019, the documents were made public on the “家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni) LIHKG account, “Because the original G20 crowdfunding post was also by ‘家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni),’ so at the end, the report was also posted using ‘家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni).’

12:30 The prosecution asks Li about his role in the global advertisement campaign

The prosecution asked, what role did Li play in this global advertisement campaign. Li said that he was one of the people who “brought up this idea, actually operated the crowdfunding account, and later helped with advancing funds, and I kept track of the finances.” The prosecution continued to ask, what role did Chan Tsz-wah play? Li said that Chan also came up with “this idea” and “helped find newspapers and helped find people to advance funds.”

The prosecution continued to ask if Li had documented the funds for the advertisement plan? Li confirmed that he did, mainly with two types of records, including invoices provided by newspapers and receipts for payments made by him and Chan. The prosecution displayed documents in court, indicating that some documents were found in Li’s residence, and some records were provided by the bank. The displayed document was titled “Crowdfunding G20 Open Letter in Newspapers Worldwide.”

12:06 Li: Chan said he would “ask uncle or other people” about the issue of advancing funds

Li previously claimed that Chan Tsz-wah messaged him on Telegram. Li further added that since he and Chan were originally “TG friends,” discussing privately in a message was relatively safer compared to discussing with a group of people in a group chat. When Li mentioned the issue of advancing advertisement fees in the group, Chan contacted him.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked, what does “TG friends” mean? Andy Li explained that it generally refers to an “acquaintance” known through TG. Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked if Andy Li was the administrator of the relevant Telegram group? Andy Li said he was not sure because during the 2019 movement, there were many groups on TG, including public and private groups, “Some were opened by me, some were not, there were too many to remember which was which.”

The prosecution asked again, when Chan Tsz-wah first contacted Li, how did Chan introduce himself? Li said he didn’t remember, and it’s very likely that he did not introduce himself. The prosecution followed up, when Chan said he could help solve the money issue, did he explain how he would handle it? Li recalled that at that time, Chan had asked him about the amount needed for advancing, and later Chan said he would “think of a plan,” and then said, “I will ask some uncles or other people, there might be 5 million dollars available there,” indicating Li could contact him if needed.

The prosecution asked further, when Chan mentioned “asking some uncles or other people,” did he specify who they were? Li said no, but he understood that “uncle” did not necessarily refer to someone with a blood relationship, it could broadly mean “some men, or other people.”

11:21 Break

11:10 Li: Met with Chan to exchange remittance advice

The prosecution continued to ask, when did Li need to pay for the newspaper advertisement after it was placed? Li said that payment should be made to the newspaper before the advertisement is published. If “doing it properly, for safety, 3 working days before the advertisement is published, you should transfer the money from the bank, and then immediately send the Remittance advice to the newspaper,” and when the newspaper confirms the receipt of the money, the advertisement will be published. Li continued, but some newspapers might accept “receiving your advice as confirmation of receiving the money, so the advertisement can be published on the same day, this was the arrangement made with several newspapers at that time.”

The prosecution asked again, after Chan Tsz-wah messaged Li, did Li contact him again? Li recalled that he and Chan exchanged remittance advice at Pacific Place in Admiralty in June 2019, “He gave me some remittance advice, and then nothing much, he was busy with work, so he went back to the office.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang inquired where and when the two met? Li said they arranged in a private conversation on TG, “He knew I needed help with advancing the funds, and then his side helped advance the funds a few times, then I needed to give the remittance advice, so we met at PP (Pacific Place).”

The prosecution asked, did they contact each other after meeting? Li said the advertisement plan was still in operation at that time, so he was in contact with members of the related TG group, including Chan Tsz-wah, “But talking about meeting T in person, it’s further down the timeline, do you want me to talk about it? Because it jumps over another crowdfunding,” adding that not all advertisements happened in June.

10:55 Li: T said he could find someone to advance the advertisement fees

Andy Li added that when he realized he couldn’t advance the advertisement fees, T privately messaged him on Telegram to inquire about the situation. When T confirmed that “oh, indeed there isn’t enough money to advance,” “he said he could think of a solution.” Li recalled that T then mentioned “going to find some of his people to help advance the payment. So he said if I have some invoices to give at that time, I would send them to him, and then he would handle it,” and T would also provide him with a “Remittance advice,” “then I could give the Remittance advice back to the newspaper, and then the advertisement could be published.” Li said he had also “directly let the newspaper contact him (T), so he could directly handle everything, including arranging the payment and notifying the newspaper.”

The prosecution further asked when T mentioned “finding some of his people to help advance,” did T specify who those people included? Li recalled that for the crowdfunding in June 2019 for G20, he eventually learned that payments were made by “Lais Hotel Properties Limited” and “Dico,” because “I saw these two names making payments when I received the invoices.” Li continued, the invoices were provided by T, “so I know T, Dico, and Lais Hotel are ‘the same side of people,’ that is, T’s people.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang was concerned that Andy Li mentioned he used up 3 million dollars of his savings, while the crowdfunding raised 7 million dollars. Li added that the crowdfunding amount was about 7 million dollars at that time, but after deducting the platform fees, only about “6.1 or 6.2 million (610 to 620 thousand dollars)” remained. Alex Lee Wan-tang pointed out that Andy Li’s savings of about 3 million dollars were not included in the 6 million dollars raised from crowdfunding? Li confirmed and explained that because he couldn’t use the crowdfunding funds at that time, “so I knew that I could eventually get the crowdfunding money back, but I didn’t know when I would be reimbursed,” so he could only use non-crowdfunding funds to pay for the advertisement fees at that time.

10:45 Li: Advertisement hoped to inform the international community about what was happening in Hong Kong protests

The prosecution further asked about the advertisement plan, asking what the plan was about? Li described that at that time, they hoped to raise money to publish advertisements in more international newspapers, and the advertisements were related to Hong Kong’s democracy movement, to “raise international awareness.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Andy Li supported the related movement at that time? Andy Li confirmed, “I support it.” The prosecution further asked how Li raised funds for the advertisement plan at that time? Li said he set up a fundraising page on the crowdfunding platform GoGetFunding. The prosecution asked what information Li provided on the webpage at that time? Li said he couldn’t remember the exact words, but the meaning was “we want to raise money for international advertisements now, to let the international community know what’s happening in the Hong Kong protest activities at that time.”

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping was concerned if the crowdfunding webpage was promoted on Telegram at that time, allowing other Telegram users to donate to the webpage? Li responded that at that time, there was a user in the Telegram group who had an account name “家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni) on the “LIHKG discussion forum.” And this account itself “was already a hit, many people were paying attention,” so when “Garden Spaghetti” made a post, “then many people knew,” “as far as I know, the crowdfunding campaign was promoted like this.”

The prosecution asked if a fundraising goal was set at that time? Li said he couldn’t remember the amount, “but I remember the target was exceeded, so because the final amount raised was 7 million, so the target was set lower than 7 million,” and the crowdfunding campaign ended in June 2019. The prosecution asked what payment platform Li used at that time? Li said he initially used PayPal, but later switched to Stripe due to unspecified reasons for account freezing. Li described that Stripe was linked to his Standard Chartered personal account at that time, and later his PayPal account was unfrozen, allowing him to withdraw money from it, but there was only over 20,000 dollars, “not a big amount, compared to the 7 million from crowdfunding.” Alex Lee Wan-tang asked, so the 7 million dollars mainly came from his Stripe account? Li confirmed.

10:30 Li: T once offered to help solve the financial issues for the advertisement

Andy Li added that the G20 summit was held in Japan in June 2019. The prosecution asked what T said to Li on Telegram regarding the advertisement plan. Li responded that the content mentioned the “general idea” about the advertisement, “I’m not sure if it includes him (Chan Tsz-wah), but the group was very supportive of this idea.” Li continued to explain that at that time, Hong Kong had “several very visual protest scenes, I think they were some very eye-catching protests or scenes, and we were thinking about how to bring this attention and momentum to the international stage, to gain international support, and discuss the idea of placing advertisements.” Li further mentioned that a crowdfunding campaign was launched, and T later asked Li, “if there was any financial assistance needed.”

The prosecution asked when T became concerned about Li’s financial issues. Li recalled, “It must have been after the crowdfunding ended, up until the second day of the G20 meeting or before.” Li explained that the advertisement needed to be published “in time for the G20 meeting, because the ads wanted to ride on the G20, so they had to be out before the G20 meeting,” so the financial issues had to be resolved before then.

Li continued to explain that since there was a certain transfer time after the crowdfunding campaign was completed, the funds could not be used immediately, so someone had to advance the advertisement fees between the completion of the crowdfunding and the publication of the advertisement. Li recalled that at that time, “I used up about my own three million or so.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Li had used up his savings of 3 million dollars at that time. Li said, “Approximately, but it wasn’t enough to cover the advertisement fees, so there was the money issue I mentioned earlier.”

10:15 Andy Li says he got to know Chan Tsz-wah through Telegram

Anthony Chau Tin-hang first provided background information, stating that Andy Li completed his university education and was arrested on August 10, 2020. On March 24, 2021, he was charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces,” along with charges of “conspiracy to assist a criminal” and “possession of ammunition without a license.” Li pleaded guilty to the charge of “conspiracy to collude” on July 7, 2021, and the other two charges were kept on file. Andy Li confirmed this.

The prosecution continued, stating that one of the co-conspirators in the “conspiracy to collude” charge was Chan Tsz-wah, and asked if Li knew Chan. Li confirmed. The prosecution then asked how and when Li met Chan Tsz-wah. Li recalled, “If I remember correctly, it was during June 2019, on Telegram. At that time, I didn’t know his name was Chan Tsz-wah; I just called him T.” The prosecution further asked how T contacted Li. Li described, “It was around the end of June, just before the G20 summit, when Hong Kong citizens, including me and T, were discussing a plan or idea about placing an advertisement. We were discussing it in a Telegram group, and I was involved in the discussion with T, along with other people.”

10:09 Andy Li appears in court

Wearing black-framed glasses and appearing slim, Andy Li was escorted into the courtroom by correctional officers. Dressed in a black jacket, he looked around while waiting for court staff to arrange the seating. He then raised a bible and took an oath in the Christian form, with Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang leading the examination.

10:05 Court in session

Defense Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung announced that King’s Counsel Marc Corlett will cross-examine the fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li.

09:00 The prison van transporting Li Yuxuan arrives at the court

Andy Li, who is currently detained at the Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, was escorted to the court by a prison van at around 9 a.m. The police’s Counter Terrorism Response Unit was armed and on guard outside the court, with a large number of uniformed officers patrolling the perimeter of the court. The police armored vehicle “Sabretooth” was also stationed on site. The police set up a search area outside the court, where passing vehicles were subjected to security checks. Officers with police dogs searched around the vehicles and then inspected the undersides of the vehicles.

The prison van transporting Jimmy Lai arrived at the court from the Lai Chi Kok Detention Centre at around 9:30 a.m., driving against traffic into the court area. Jimmy Lai’s wife and daughter were also present in court as observers.

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