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

Show your support by using the hashtag #FreeJimmyLai

Day 49: March 20, 2024

The Witness: Real-time Update: 49th Day of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – Andy Li: Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong (SWHK) Was Not Established for Sanctions; Sanctions Are Just One of the Methods

The founder of Next Digital, Jimmy Lai, and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case entered its 49th day of trial on Wednesday (March 20) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li, one of the “12 Hong Kongers,” testified on the sixth day, discussing the composition of “SWHK (Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong).” He described “SWHK” as “a loose organization of Hongkongers” without a charter or membership system, “but there is a consensus to do things for Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy.” In each specific activity, members who support that activity participate, so the discourse of each “SWHK” activity is not consistent.

He gave an example that some activities of “SWHK” are related to sanctions, but not all members support sanctions. He also disagreed that “SWHK” was established for sanctions, “but it can be said that the consensus of ‘SWHK’ at that time was to fight for freedom and democracy for Hong Kong, and the aforementioned sanctions are one of the means.”

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 King’s Counsel Marc Corlett with Hong Kong practicing qualifications.

16:28 Court Adjourned

16:00 Li: Met Mark Simon in September 2019
Later learned he was a key assistant to Jimmy Lai

The prosecution asked about the situation in September 2019 when U.S. Senator Rick Scott visited Hong Kong and met with Andy Li and Mark Simon. The court displayed WhatsApp chat records from a group named “Coffee on Sunday,” created by Chan Tsz-wah on September 29, 2019, including members Andy Li and Mark Simon. The chat showed Chan mentioning adding “Cath” to the group, and Mark Simon asking, “Hello, Senator Rick Scott is here in HK. Could you two be free at 4:45 in Mid-level?”

Li said Cath was one of Chan Tsz-wah’s people, understood to be a “frontline” person in the protest activities. In contrast, Li described himself as a “backline” person, managing crowdfunding campaigns behind a computer. When asked by Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping if he personally participated in protests, Li confirmed he did not.

Li stated that he had no knowledge of Mark Simon at that time and was introduced to him by Chan Tsz-wah. Since Mark Simon was added to the group by Chan, Li knew he was associated with Chan’s side. He didn’t converse with Mark Simon when meeting Rick Scott and later learned through newspapers and other channels that Mark Simon was Jimmy Lai’s “right-hand man.”

When asked why Li was invited to meet with Rick Scott, Li explained that he was in charge of international advertisement campaigns, had participated in the Human Rights Council, and visited France, so he had “done things” on the international front. He said that the international line aimed to draw attention to Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy, and “SWHK” gradually wanted to do international lobbying to address the deteriorating situation of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.

Li clarified that the meeting with the senator aimed to encourage the U.S. to “do something to address the situation in Hong Kong,” but no specific suggestions were made. It was mainly about raising awareness. Since Cath witnessed protest scenes on the frontline, she was responsible for describing them, while Li talked about crowdfunding activities or what Rick Scott could do as a senator.

15:30 Li Confirms Visit to Geneva and Meeting with United Nations Human Rights Council Staff

Li confirmed that he visited Geneva and met with Sébastien Gillioz from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in December 2019. During his visit in August 2019, another Telegram member, “Sheep,” who is a UN staff member, invited Li. “Sheep” noted that the Office had issued a statement related to Hong Kong in August 2019, which was unusual as there had only been two statements related to Hong Kong in history. This indicated the Office’s concern for the situation in Hong Kong, which involved democracy, freedom, and protests. “Sheep” suggested that Li contact Sébastien Gillioz for the September 2019 meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Li was accompanied by Shirley Ho, an American theoretical astrophysicist, during his visit to Geneva.

15:00 Li describes the origins of “Hong Kong Story”

The prosecution asked about the organization “Hong Kong Story,” displaying company registration records from September 2019, which showed that Li was the founder and first director. When asked why the company was established at that time, Li explained that it initially focused on crowdfunding issues. They had previously discussed whether to withdraw funds under the name of “LLC (Limited Liability Company),” which he had discussed with Chan Tsz-wah. Since Li had used his personal account for advance payments and Chan’s account was not an “activist organization,” they discussed whether to set up an activist organization account. Li explained that since he had participated in crowdfunding and advertising activities under his real identity, he discussed with Chan whether to establish an activist organization under their real names. Eventually, they agreed to establish “Hong Kong Story.”

The prosecution then asked what activities the organization conducted after its establishment. Li recalled that between August and September 2019, they visited the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and met with Sébastien Gillioz, who was in charge of China affairs, using “Hong Kong Story” business cards.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked about other members involved in “Hong Kong Story.” Li said there were none, explaining that after setting up the company, they found it still couldn’t solve the issues with handling crowdfunding funds. Thus, they didn’t pay much attention to “Hong Kong Story.” For example, they used “The Project Hong Kong Trust” to handle crowdfunding funds, so there was no need for the company “Hong Kong Story.” When actions required real identities, “SWHK” was more effective, and they directly distributed “SWHK” business cards. Li gave an example of distributing “SWHK” cards when visiting U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Todd Young, and Rick Scott. The prosecution showed “Hong Kong Story” business cards belonging to Li, with the words “Freedom, Justice, Hong Kong.”

14:50 Li: UK MP’s visit to Hong Kong was related to “Lam Chau”

The prosecution continued to ask about the purpose of Bob Seely’s visit to Hong Kong. Li said it was mainly to assist “Lam Chau,” (攬炒巴) as they claimed Bob Seely wanted to visit Hong Kong to “see things for himself.” After returning to the UK, Seely could “continue whatever he was working on with Lam Chau.” As for the interactions between “Lam Chau” and Bob Seely, Li understood it was mainly to raise awareness of democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, but he was not clear on the details.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang mentioned that it seemed Li did not accompany Bob Seely to observe the protests. Li confirmed this and also said he did not know who proposed Seely’s visit to Hong Kong. Li described Wilson Li Chung-chak as being quite familiar with preparing itineraries, accommodations, and transportation. Besides Seely’s visit, Andy Li had not seen Wilson Li Chung-chak participate in “SWHK” or “Lam Chau” activities.

14:31 Andy Li Describes the Details of British MP’s Visit to Hong Kong

The prosecution continued to ask about the activities of “SWHK” and showed a webpage screenshot titled “Global Achievements,” which included “Successfully invited Bob Seely MP to observe the protests in Hong Kong on August 31” under the UK section.

The prosecution asked about Bob Seely’s visit to Hong Kong. Li recalled that “Lam Chau” notified him on Telegram that MP Bob Seely was interested in coming to Hong Kong to observe the protests and hoped someone could receive Bob Seely in Hong Kong. Eventually, former Scholarism member Wilson Li Chung-chak provided assistance in Hong Kong, and Li also participated. Andy Li said that Wilson Li Chung-chak was responsible for most of the itinerary, and Andy Li once had dinner with Bob Seely and others at a restaurant in Causeway Bay.

Li also said that someone arranged for Bob Seely to observe the street protests because “there was the use of tear gas during the protests at that time,” which was part of Bob Seely MP’s visit to observe. Li added that the expenses for Bob Seely’s visit to Hong Kong were funded by the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Advertisement Campaign” because the visit was also related to the UK, involving less than tens of thousands of Hong Kong dollars.

The prosecution asked what the purpose was of taking Bob Seely to observe the protests. Li said it was because Bob Seely “wanted to see for himself with his own eyes what was happening in Hong Kong at that time. The street protests were one of the important matters in Hong Kong at that time.”

The prosecution further asked what was discussed when Andy Li met with Bob Seely. Li described that the main discussion was a summary of the events happening in Hong Kong, regarding the situation of freedom and democracy, “because in 2019, there were indeed many street demonstrations, and people were dissatisfied with the situation of freedom and democracy, leading to many street demonstrations.”

12:52 Lunch Break
12:30 Andy Li: After Returning to the Group, Members Agreed Not to Advertise Again

The prosecution asked again if the group was still related to “SWHK” after Li rejoined. Li said that during that period, some people identified with the identity of “G Lam,” while others identified with “SWHK.” Neither had formal charters or membership systems, nor was there a specific reason to “formalize” the organization. Instead, Li continued, in the UK’s “Lam Chau” actions, they had always been holding events in the UK, including “public” events such as using banners in rallies or meeting with Members of Parliament, “so I understand that some of these activities gradually used the ‘SWHK’ logo and slogan.” Li recalled that later, the Sino-British Joint Declaration action team and the “G Lam” team were integrated and renamed “SWHK” at the end of 2019.

Li also said that the members who remained in the group at that time all agreed not to continue advertising, so someone “gradually identified the ‘SWHK’ label, and the ‘G Lam’ label seemed to be a historical label” related to the initial advertisement activities.

12:15 Andy Li: Disagreed with Further Advertisements, Left the Group Because of It

Li said that after the discussion, the members split into two groups. Those who agreed not to continue the global advertisement campaign stayed in “G Lam Chau,” while those who only wanted to advertise left the team. Li continued, saying that the members who wanted to continue the advertisement campaign, to his knowledge, carried out a crowdfunding advertisement plan called “Happy Birthday to Your Mother” around October 1, 2019, but Li did not participate at that time.

The prosecution continued to ask if Li had always stayed in the “G Lam” group. Li said he had left the group and then rejoined later. He explained that at that time, he and Chan Tsz-wah were responsible for advancing the advertisement fees, and both of them disagreed with further advertisements. Therefore, if he and Chan both left the campaign, it would bring financial pressure to the campaign, as it might not be possible to arrange for someone else to advance the funds immediately. Li described that when he later found out that everyone decided not to organize further advertisements, he rejoined the group.

The prosecution continued to ask if there was a consensus not to advertise further when Li left the group. Li said there was no consensus at that time, and the discussion was still ongoing. Later, when a consensus was reached, someone informed him, and he rejoined the group. Li said he also informed Chan Tsz-wah that he had rejoined the group.

12:04 Andy Li: Discussed How to Handle the Remaining Funds After the Third Advertisement

The prosecution continued to ask, after completing three international crowdfunding advertising campaigns, if Andy Li and other members discussed in the Telegram group whether to continue similar advertising campaigns. Li recalled that at that time, everyone discussed whether to continue global advertising. About half of the crowdfunding funds were used for the advertising campaign at that time, but if they were to carry out a similar scale of advertising campaign again, it would use up the funds. And at that time, the discussion was, “Is this the best way to fight for democracy and freedom that everyone wanted at that time?” Additionally, there was also concern at that time that if the funds were not used up, people would worry about being questioned, “Why is the money sitting with you? Will it be misused?”

Li recalled that someone also proposed that continuing to advertise was not the best method, and asked if anyone could immediately propose a better method? Li said that at that time, what he meant was, if there was no better method, they should use up the funds in the form of advertising as the only “ready-made” option at that time. Li continued that, after discussion, everyone decided not to advertise anymore and to temporarily “let the money sit there, and see if there is something worth doing or something they want to do before doing it.”

Li said that he also informed Chan Tsz-wah of the discussion content, and Chan also agreed that they should not advertise “and use up all the money immediately,” agreeing to “let the money sit for now, and continue with activities that everyone wants to do in the future.”

11:21 Court adjourned.

11:00 Andy Li: Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong Team Decided Activities through Member Consensus

Andy Li previously claimed that the “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” team was established during the campaign to advertise the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The prosecution asked when the team’s website was set up. Li said it should have been in July 2019. The prosecution continued to ask who was responsible for managing the website. Li said it included himself and other members, such as someone named “Kirin Bumper.” Li joined the management of the website midway and did not remember when “Kirin Bumper” set up the website.

The prosecution asked who was responsible for managing the activities of “SWHK.” Li said it was discussed by the members. The prosecution further asked who decided to implement the activities displayed on the website. Li said it was “by consensus.”

The prosecution cited the financial statement of “G Lam Chau,” showing that “funder 1,” which is Andy Li himself, received a refund of US$420,000 from “Funder 17” in February 2020. Li described that the amount involved the money he had previously advanced. At that time, he expressed to “The Project Hong Kong Trust” that he wanted to retrieve the funds. Li also confirmed that “The Project Hong Kong Trust” was “Funder 17.” The prosecution then showed Li’s bank statement, which showed a receipt of US$420,000 on February 28, 2020, from a bank in the United States. Li confirmed.

The prosecution continued to cite the accounts, showing three transactions between November 4, 2019, and February 3, 2020, all from “Funder 2,” which is Mark Simon, to “Funder 17,” which is “The Project Hong Kong Trust,” involving US$400,000, US$330,000, and US$468,000, totaling about US$1.2 million. Li said that at that time, Mark Simon transferred the money to “The Project Hong Kong Trust” because Mark Simon managed the amount during the “G Lam Chau” crowdfunding. Later, when “The Project Hong Kong Trust” account was ready, Mark Simon transferred the money to “The Project Hong Kong Trust” account.

The prosecution continued to cite that the report showed Mark Simon received US$1.77 million, which differed from the US$1.2 million he transferred. Li explained that at that time, Mark Simon and Chan Tsz-wah’s side had advanced advertising fees, which did not need to be returned to “The Project Hong Kong Trust,” so there was a difference in the amounts. However, even considering the advanced funds, there was still a difference from the US$1.77 million. Li said that he had communicated with Chan Tsz-wah at that time, asking him to arrange for the transfer of the relevant difference to “The Project Hong Kong Trust.” Chan said he would make arrangements, but Li did not know whether he eventually did so.

10:30 AM Andy Li agreed that some of the wording in the advertisements included calls for sanctions.

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping asked which terms in the Chinese version were more “flowery” (implying embellishment or not substantial). Li mentioned terms like “sanctioning the Hong Kong communists,” while the English version used “advocacy for Hong Kong.” Li then, at the request of Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang, read out the Chinese title of the report as “Global Crowdfunding for Sanctioning Hong Kong Communists Campaign,” indicating that “Hong Kong communists” referred to the Hong Kong government’s association with the communist regime.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked what message the organization wanted to convey through this title. Andy Li described it as implying that the Hong Kong regime is related to communism. He explained that the term “Chinese communists” was not used because the activity was not directly separating from Hong Kong. If “Chinese communists” were used, it would “lose sight of Hong Kong.” However, at that time, “Hong Kong communists” was considered a more charged description, set against the backdrop of appealing for donations. Li added that the term “flowery” means “not neutral.”

The prosecution asked if Li confirmed that one of the themes of “G Lam Chau” was to request foreign countries to impose sanctions on the Hong Kong and Chinese governments. Li disagreed. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang interjected, noting that Andy Li did not describe sanctions as a theme. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang then asked if Andy Li agreed that some of the advertisement wording included calls for sanctions. Andy Li agreed.

10:10 Li: “SWHK (Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong)” not all members support sanctions

Regarding the organizational nature of “SWHK (Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong),”Andy Li added on Wednesday (March 20) that “I would say ‘SWHK’ is a loose organization of Hong Kong people, at least initially.” Li described that the organization does not have a charter, nor was it established based on any charter, and there is no membership system. “However, there is a consensus, which is to do things for the freedom and democracy of Hong Kong.” In each specific activity, members who support the activity will participate, so the discourse of each “SWHK” activity is not consistent.

Li gave an example, stating that some “SWHK” members and related activities “are related to sanctions, but I do not agree that all activities or members support sanctions. I also do not agree that ‘SWHK’ is an organization established for the sake of sanctions.” Li continued, “However, it can be said that the consensus of ‘SWHK’ is, at that time, to fight for freedom and democracy for Hong Kong, and the sanctions mentioned earlier are one of the means.”

Li cited a screenshot of the “Stand with Hong Kong” website, showing the “Global Advertisement Sanctions Crowdfunding Campaign” report. Li explained that the report was prepared for the “SWHK Crowdfunding” at that time, and members had discussed how to encourage people to donate to the crowdfunding campaign. The final consensus was that the Chinese version of the report used more “flowery” wording, “to make it clear to the Chinese-speaking people to donate money.” As for those who do not understand Chinese and need to read the English version, the members felt that neutral wording should be used to encourage them to donate more easily.

10:03 Court session begins

The Witness

Stand up for Jimmy Lai

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