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Day 47: March 18, 2024

Ming Pao: Jimmy Lai Trail | Andy Li: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” (重光團隊) was established for advertising, later involved in politics; Mark Simon once handled crowdfunding funds (16:46)

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case entered the 47th day of trial today. The fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li, testified for the fourth day.

Ming Pao’s live text coverage of the trial

【16:00】Court adjourned.

【15:50】Andy Li stated that the third crowdfunding campaign raised a total of 1.8 million US dollars, approximately 14 million Hong Kong dollars, with expenses amounting to about 7.3 million Hong Kong dollars. By March 2020, the cumulative expenses for advertising were over 6 million Hong Kong dollars. Since Li was arrested in August 2020, he was unclear about the expenses at that time, but mentioned that “Lam Chau” launched the fourth crowdfunding campaign named “Liberation Plan” (重光計畫) in May 2020, updating the expense records of the third crowdfunding campaign.

Before adjourning, Judge Alex Lee mentioned Andy Li’s statement about wanting the funds not to remain in the Hong Kong banking system, asking if it was Li’s speculation. Li replied, “I remember having such discussions.” Judge Lee then asked why the funds couldn’t be kept in Mark Simon’s bank account, and Li explained that the nature of the funds was to repay the advertising expenses he had advanced, and he believed that the crowdfunding funds should be kept in a trust account.

【14:36】Court resumed. Andy Li continued his testimony, stating that the G-Lam Chau Crowdfunding (G攬炒眾籌) (referred to as the third campaign) included advertising in newspapers across nine European and American countries, with Li responsible for managing the crowdfunding and advancing the advertising expenses, and “Lam Chau” promoting the campaign through posts. The third campaign chose US dollars as the transaction currency, and Li explained that since the team planned to use the GoFundMe online crowdfunding platform used in the previous campaign, which did not allow the selection of Hong Kong dollars, and the third campaign was not limited to the UK, the team chose to use the US dollar, an international currency.

Li continued, stating that due to GoFundMe’s regulations, if the crowdfunding currency was US dollars, a US bank account had to be provided to receive the funds. With the third campaign ultimately raising about 1.8 million US dollars, “a bank account that could receive this lump sum was needed, not just any ordinary account,” meaning the team had to find a wealthy person in the US to help.

He mentioned that at the time, an unnamed wealthy American was willing to lend his bank account, but the bank temporarily suspended the transfer instruction, and even after he tried to explain to the bank, the funds could not be successfully withdrawn. The funds were then returned to GoFundMe, and the team found another wealthy American to help, and later Li learned that this person was Mark Simon.

【12:47】Court adjourned.
【12:35】Andy Li mentioned that the first crowdfunding team and the second crowdfunding team, both successful, wanted to hold a joint crowdfunding event, “merging the two together,” resulting in the “G-Fight for Freedom Crowdfunding” launched in August 2019. Both Li and “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” participated in it, with the theme of the crowdfunding being to raise international awareness of Hong Kong’s democracy. Li also mentioned that some people, like him, participated in both crowdfunding campaigns.

【12:28】The prosecution revisited the first crowdfunding campaign, asking if there were other activities besides advertising. Andy Li mentioned that in August or September 2019, they held a newspaper exhibition in Hong Kong, “to show Hong Kong people in Hong Kong that during the G20 summit in June, Hong Kong people had done international advertising.”

The prosecution then asked who sponsored the newspaper exhibition, and Li replied, “In the middle of it, I don’t know if it was T (the name used by Chan Tsz-wah in the Telegram group) or T through Apple Daily, but they supported it with 30,000 or 40,000 Hong Kong dollars.” However, Li did not handle the sponsorship fee, so he only heard what T said. The prosecution intended to ask about the conversation between Li and T at that time, but the defense objected, stating it was hearsay evidence.

【12:01】Court resumed. Andy Li continued his testimony, mentioning that the activities of the “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” organization (SWHK) expanded from advertising in newspapers to “organizing events supporting Hong Kong,” consulting with consulting firms, and advertising on social media platforms.

Li previously mentioned that in addition to him and “Lam Chau”, another founder of the organization was a woman named Shirley Ho. Li said Shirley was in the US at the time, and they both went to Geneva, Switzerland, in July to August 2019, and another time led by her, they went to Washington, D.C., in the US from November to December of the same year.

As for Finn Lau, the figurehead of “Lam Chau”, Li described his role in the organization as the most prominent, “He is the ‘Lam Chau’ on LIHKG, that’s his most prominent role,” because the first crowdfunding was driven by the LIHKG member “家樂牌通心粉, ” (Knorr Macaroni) and the second crowdfunding “was his turn to use his influence,” “Most of his posts on LIHKG have a lot of responses, a lot of people read his posts.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if “Lam Chau” was the spiritual leader of the second crowdfunding, and Li replied, “it can be understood as such.” The prosecution said they would discuss the organization at an appropriate time.

【11:25】Court adjourned.

【11:10】Andy Li revealed that the organization “” was established in mid-July 2019, with its origins tracing back to the “G20 Summit Newspaper Crowdfunding” (G20峰會報登眾籌)(the first crowdfunding) in June 2019. When they advertised in foreign newspapers, they were required to list the advertiser’s name on the ads, with some newspapers stating they did not accept anonymous or individual advertisements, and others requiring the advertiser to be an organization. Hence, some ads were published under the name of Hong Kong Watch with their consent.

Li continued, stating that initially, names like “Free Hong Kong” and “Hong Konger” were used for advertising, but later they wanted a unified organization to be responsible for the ads of the second crowdfunding, so they discussed in the Telegram group “what should this organization be called?” Group members used Telegram’s voting feature to create a poll, and the name that emerged from the votes of different group members was “Lam Chau”.

Li pointed out, “The reason for establishing an organization at the beginning was for advertising,” but the organization later expanded, and its activities were not limited to advertising in newspapers, but Li said, “That’s a story for later.”

【10:33】Andy Li mentioned that besides himself, there were other people who advanced expenses for the second crowdfunding, but he did not know the identity of the payers.

The prosecution pointed out that the second crowdfunding campaign advertised in British newspapers The Guardian, New Statesman, and London Evening Standard, with one of the ads mentioning “sign the petition” and “” Andy Li explained that at the time, “Lam Chau” wanted to turn the ads into specific political activities, so they launched a petition campaign for local people in the UK to write to their MPs in their constituencies, declaring, “I am your voter, I want you to do something, then I will continue to vote for you.”

As for “,” it is a social movement organization, Andy Li said that the organization is formed by “a group of international Hong Kong people and people who care about Hong Kong,” with the aim of fighting for freedom and democracy at that time. The organization was founded by Andy Li, “Lam Chau” team, Madison, and Shirley, among others.

【10:04】Court resumed. Andy Li, a member of “Hong Kong Story,” continued his testimony, mentioning the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Newspaper Crowdfunding” (the second crowdfunding) in July 2019. He said that according to the crowdfunding platform, the second crowdfunding campaign raised a total of £319,493, but the actual amount raised was £308,299, due to platform technical issues and credit card fees; the total expenditure of the second crowdfunding was also £308,299. Li explained that if the expenses of an activity exceeded the deposit of the second crowdfunding, the bills would be split and part of the amount would be paid by the “G-Fight for Freedom Crowdfunding.” During Li’s testimony, Jimmy Lai was resting with his eyes closed in the defendant’s dock.

Ming Pao Reporters: Yeung Chi-kuen, Tong Bik-yu

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