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Day 52: March 25, 2024

The Witness: Live Update: 52nd Day of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – Andy Li Testifies for the Ninth Day

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, along with three related companies, are charged with ‘conspiracy to collude with foreign forces’ and other crimes. The case continued on its 52nd day in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court) on Monday (March 25). The fourth co-defendant witness, Andy Li, one of the ’12 Hongkongers,’ testified for the ninth day. The prosecution presented TG/Signal messages showing Li introducing himself to Luke de Pulford, a member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and others as the chairperson of the election monitoring committee and an informal representative of the Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong team.

Li also explained that at the time, the team deliberately used non-political figures like ‘Lam Chau’ to push forward their work, believing that there was no need to follow political parties and that this approach allowed for greater flexibility. He also mentioned that the issue of representation among Hong Kong organizations hindered their work in the international community, citing the example that when a Hongkonger meets with a parliamentarian, ‘it is unclear how many Hongkongers that person can represent.’

Last Friday, Li mentioned that he had hosted Japanese Diet member Takashi Takai in Hong Kong, discussing the situation of democracy and freedom and the protests in Hong Kong, and taking them to the site of the conflict at CUHK No. 2 Bridge. Subsequently, Li also sent Takai a democratic bill drafted by someone else, and then personally went to Japan to meet with two Communist Party members, also bringing along tear gas canisters.

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 barrister with practicing qualifications in Hong Kong.

16:09 Court adjourned

15:25 Li: Fourth crowdfunding supports Hong Kong’s democratic activities

The prosecution showed the ‘G Lam’ income and expenditure account, and Li confirmed that in March 2020, SWHK had about 690,000 USD remaining, reiterating ‘so there won’t be a problem with financial support, and this money is already in The Project Hong Kong Trust account, ready for immediate use.’

The prosecution asked, why hold the fourth crowdfunding campaign, the ‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong’ project? Li recalled that before May 2020, SWHK members were concerned about the remaining crowdfunding funds, ‘considering the speed of spending at that time, how long it could last,’ so Li organized the accounts and calculated, allowing ‘Lam Chau’ to decide whether a fourth crowdfunding was needed, and later ‘Lam Chau’ felt it was better to hold another crowdfunding campaign. Li reiterated that he did not participate in the fourth crowdfunding.

The prosecution showed a TG message from Luke de Pulford to Li, in which de Pulford sent a Chinese message to Li:

【Lam Chau officially joins the global anti-communist ‘International Coalition’ IPAC】Hereby announced, Lam Chau officially joins the ‘Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China’ Central Secretariat; continuing the team’s modest support for the alliance’s birth. The emergence of international support such as IPAC is not indoctrinated by individual KOLs from the stone explosion; but the result of persistent efforts of international and local lines such as Luke de Pulford and those who were ridiculed for ‘sacrificing themselves.’

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if de Pulford could read Chinese? Li said de Pulford does not understand Chinese.

Additionally, the prosecution showed on the GoFundMe website, the page for ‘Lam Chau’s ‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong Project’ – After Lam Chau, comes the dawn! [USD],’ with a crowdfunding goal of over 1.7 million USD. Li said the crowdfunding plan is to reserve funds to ‘broadly support things related to Hong Kong’s democracy, activities, all of which can use this fund.’

Li added, after reading de Pulford’s message, ‘it seems to be written by Lam Chau, at least the writing style is similar to Lam Chau’s,’ and also mentioned ‘Lam Chau is acting in his role as Lam Chau.’

15:02 Li: Fourth crowdfunding bypasses Hong Kong accounts to avoid bank freezes or accusations of money laundering

The prosecution questioned the fourth crowdfunding campaign, the “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” project, in May 2020. Li confirmed that he had discussed this with Chan Tsz-wah and Lam Chau, mainly about ‘removing me and not allowing me to participate.’ Li explained that at that time, he was in Hong Kong and also using a Hong Kong bank account, so they felt there was no need to take the risk of storing funds in the Hong Kong banking system. The prosecution asked what risks were involved? Li mentioned ‘money laundering or other reasons that might lead to the bank freezing the funds.’

On the other hand, Li mentioned that there were rumors about the enactment of the National Security Law at that time, ‘so it’s better not to let someone within the jurisdiction of Hong Kong hold the money… We didn’t know what the National Security Law would be like, so to play it safe, we didn’t use someone under Hong Kong’s jurisdiction.’

The prosecution asked if Chan Tsz-wah was in Hong Kong at that time? Li said, ‘He should have been, at least he didn’t tell me he had left for a second time, but I haven’t confirmed whether he was in Hong Kong or not.’ What about Lam Chau? Li said he was not in Hong Kong at that time.

Li added that he discussed with Lam Chau before discussing with Chan Tsz-wah. Li proposed to withdraw from the ‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong’ project and use the bank account of ‘The Project Hong Kong Trust’ to handle the crowdfunding funds. ‘He agreed with that concern and the approach of separating me, so it led to the decision to separate me from the project.’

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked why Li still needed to discuss with Chan Tsz-wah after discussing with Lam Chau and the SWHK side. Li said that Chan Tsz-wah had previously provided financial support, meaning ‘since that’s the case, there’s no need for Chan’s side to provide financial support anymore, instead use The Project Hong Kong Trust.’ Additionally, there were still remaining funds from the third crowdfunding campaign ‘G Lam,’ ‘so there shouldn’t have been an immediate problem of insufficient funds requiring financial support,’ so he informed Chan that there was no need for further financial support and to ‘remove your side as well.’

14:42 Prosecutor questions the function of the ‘SWHK Board’ TG group

The prosecutor presented the ‘SWHK accounting’ and ‘SWHK Board’ TG groups, the latter mentioning ‘-structure ~3 from HK ~3 from EU ~ from US (by timezone) – 2 approval votes from any members to approve budget item, prefer discussions, budget submitter cannot approve.’

The prosecutor asked what this message was about? Li said it was about the approval process for the funds from the second and third crowdfunding campaigns, “Choosing 3 members from each time zone of Hong Kong, the United States, and Europe, and then placing them into one group. Then, if any member wants to spend money, they would take the budget item to the group for discussion, and it can be approved with any two votes at the end.”

Li continued, “But the person who submits the budget item is not allowed to approve their own item, but it’s preferred that everyone discusses to reach a consensus, and if I remember correctly, most budget items were approved by consensus after discussion.” The prosecutor asked if Li represented the Hong Kong time zone? Li agreed and also mentioned that a person named ‘Always’ and ‘Lam Chau’ represented the European time zone.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if each time zone had to cast two votes? Li said no, any two votes would suffice, “but in practice, members from one’s own time zone wouldn’t approve their own items, and they would wait for members from other time zones to wake up and discuss.” Li added that the members were not very interested, and the ‘SWHK Board’ group was not used afterward.

14:31 Prosecutor questions details of the ‘SWHK Website’ TG group

The prosecutor mentioned that Andy Li sometimes lobbies under his real name. Do other members of SWHK also lobby under their real names? Li said, “On the UK side of Lam Chau, someone definitely used their real name… I mean, I know that on the Lam Chau side, there are real people who have met with MPs (Members of Parliament).”

The prosecutor presented a TG group called ‘SWHK Website’ with 11 members, including Andy Li as ‘rip@?’, ‘Lam Chau’ Finn Lau as ‘HK Leaving for a While’, and others such as ‘Face Blindness’.

Li said the group mainly discussed the ‘technical support’ for the SWHK website, meaning dealing with IT issues. He explained that the content management system (CMS) organizes the website content, “Generally, people with access can use the CMS to upload content, and the vast majority of content is uploaded by others.”

12:53 Break for lunch

12:30 Prosecutor questions the content of Andy Li’s email to a Japanese member of parliament

The prosecutor presented an email sent by Andy Li to Japanese member of parliament Takashi Takai. Li confirmed some of the email content, written by Zhang Yicheng. It mentioned, “In fact, starting from the end of last year, with the assistance of Representative Yamao Shiori, we have been presenting a project for the Japanese version of the ‘Human Rights and Democracy Bill.’ The bill allows us to make appropriate responses to human rights issues around the world… We are looking forward to Mr. Takai’s comment on this matter.”

The prosecutor pointed out that Li mentioned the ‘Hong Kong democratization movement’ in the email. Li explained in court that the release of the bill was an opportunity to encourage discussion about the Hong Kong democratization movement, the pandemic, and human rights issues within Japan. As for Li mentioning Chinese President Xi Jinping in the email, it was because Xi was planning to visit Japan as a state guest, “At that time, there was a discussion in Japan about whether the status of a state guest for Xi was appropriate. I was talking about the lack of freedom of speech and press in China, and whether Xi should visit Japan as a state guest.”

12:14 Prosecutor points out Andy Li’s email to Japanese members of parliament was lobbying for support of the human rights bill

The prosecutor questioned how, in Li’s understanding, the human rights bill proposed by Japanese member of parliament Shiori Yamao was supposed to achieve a ‘deterrence effect.’ Li said, “Like other general laws, if you do this, you will be punished like those laws. The deterrence is that if you don’t want to be punished, don’t do this thing.”

The prosecutor asked what follow-up actions were taken after the meeting. Li said that the meeting was followed by the pandemic, “and then everything petered out, like everything stopped,” and Yamao was unable to present the bill in the Diet. Li then emailed Takashi Takai, Taku Yamazoe, and Satoshi Inoue about the human rights bill, “More accurately asking for the opinions of these members of parliament.”

Li explained, “The idea was a bit like if the Diet session resumes, and if Yamao presents this bill,” he hoped the aforementioned members of parliament would support Yamao’s bill. By the summer of 2020, he couldn’t remember if the Diet had reopened or was preparing to reopen, and Japanese Hong Kong organizations SWHK@JPN, Act with HK, and ‘Hong Kong’s Dawn’ announced they would present a human rights bill with a group of members of parliament.

Li continued, “In that event, Agnes Chow had a video message that was presented,” with the message thanking Japan, asking for support for the bill, and asking for continued concern for Hong Kong. The prosecutor pointed out that Li’s emails to the three members of parliament were lobbying them to support Yamao Shiori’s bill. Li responded, “I don’t object to calling it lobbying, but I didn’t use the word ‘lobby’ earlier.”

11:30 Break

11:06 Andy Li recounts meeting with Japanese members of parliament in 2020

The prosecutor questioned Li about the “Japan line,” following his testimony last Friday (March 22nd) that he had sent a draft democratic bill, prepared by a member of a Hong Kong organization in Japan who is familiar with the law, Zhang Yicheng, to Japanese member of parliament Takashi Takai. Takai mentioned that he would communicate with then-member of parliament Shiori Yamao.

The prosecutor asked if Li had met with Shiori Yamao. Li stated that he had met her at the Diet building in Tokyo in early 2020, “not long before the city went into lockdown.” Also present were Zhang Yicheng, Yamao’s assistant Kuramochi Rintaro, and a Hongkonger in Japan known as “Village Chief” in the TG group. Li said that the meeting was initiated by Yamao and was their first meeting.

Li further stated that Zhang Yicheng was prepared to present the drafted democratic bill to Yamao, “but when we met Yamao, she herself brought out something that might have been called a human rights bill,” turning the meeting into her presenting the bill to Li’s group. Ultimately, Li’s group thought, “Wow, since you’ve already prepared everything,” they agreed to her proposed bill and attempted to garner more support for Yamao’s human rights bill.

The prosecutor asked what Yamao’s human rights bill was about. Li said it was about human rights violations, “talking about what the Japanese legal framework can do. Yamao is interested in reforming the Japanese constitution, so the bill lists what Japanese laws can be changed,” and it would also establish a compensation mechanism for human rights violators. When asked who the violators were, Li said there was no specific target, and it wasn’t limited to Hong Kong or Japan but referred to general human rights violators.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked how the human rights bill was related to the situation in Hong Kong. Li said the bill wasn’t specifically targeted at Hong Kong, “but if the bill is passed and human rights violations are found in Hong Kong that meet the threshold proposed in the bill, ‘it can be processed through the mechanisms on the Japanese side’,” hoping for a “deterrence effect,” but he couldn’t remember the details.

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping noted that Li’s group’s bill wasn’t adopted at the meeting, so could it be said that the meeting was unsuccessful? Li said, “At the time, we thought the version proposed by the member of parliament was better because it was her own initiative,” and it also considered the Japanese legal framework, so Li’s group supported Yamao’s bill.

The prosecutor then asked if the bill drafted by Li’s group was similar to the Magnitsky Act. Li said, “I don’t know how similar it is,” explaining that “it’s not as clear as the Magnitsky umbrella covering everything. It’s more like what the Japanese legal framework can do because it refers to other Japanese ordinances.”

11:00 Prosecutor shows messages indicating the suggested sanctions list had SWHK and Hong Kong IAD logos

The prosecutor presented content from a Signal group where Dimon mentioned that “Dr. Warren Mann” needed a list of senior Hong Kong police officers to impose sanctions on them. Andy Li sent a link to the suggested sanctions list in the group, but there was no further discussion.

The prosecutor asked who Dr. Warren Mann is and why he needed a list of police officers for sanctions. Li said Dr. Warren Mann is a doctor who provides medical treatment to injured frontline protesters, and he needed a sanctions list. Li confirmed that the suggested sanctions list had logos of SWHK and the Hong Kong IAD, but he was unclear about the role of the Hong Kong IAD in creating the suggested sanctions list.

The prosecutor asked if SWHK and the Hong Kong IAD had organized other activities. Li mentioned that in September 2019, an international lobbying event organized by the Hong Kong IAD was funded by the third crowdfunding campaign “G20 X Lam Chau.”

10:52 Andy Li mentions representational issues hinder work in the international community

The prosecutor continued to present messages from Luke de Pulford: “I believe the movement is at a critical juncture. For loads of reasons, I think the obstacles preventing you from speaking more clearly into the international community ‘must’ be overcome.”

The prosecutor asked what “obstacles” de Pulford referred to. Andy Li mentioned that first, many members were anonymous at the time, “which led to situations where ideas were there, but no one could articulate them.” Additionally, activists were scattered across different organizations. On the other hand, “there was no authorization or mandate to represent the community, meaning the Hong Konger community.”

Li continued, saying that when different individuals approached international organizations, “there would be different people in different places contacting different people, and it’s unclear how many others one person could truly represent.” He gave an example that if a Hongkonger met with a parliamentarian, “it’s unclear how many Hongkongers that person could represent.”

Regarding de Pulford’s statement that “the movement is at a critical juncture,” Li recalled that at the time, no traditional democratic parties or organizations were willing to represent Hongkongers, “resulting in a lack of clear messages to the international community from our perspective, which is my understanding of the concern I raised with Luke.” The prosecutor asked why de Pulford set up this group and why he added the four others, including Li. Li believes that de Pulford wanted to gather opinions and facilitate discussions, adding, “I think it’s because Luke happened to know the four of us.”

10:34 Prosecutor cites Signal messages: Andy Li introduces himself as an informal representative of “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”

The prosecutor presented a Signal group chat named “Joey+Nat+Luke+Dimon+Andy”, where Luke de Pulford sent the first message on January 12, 2020, saying “Hello Everyone” and “We now have: Andy Dimon Natalie Joey Luke”, totaling five members. Andy Li introduced himself in the group: “hi all this is Andy, loosely a face from ‘Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong’ speaking for the other volunteers who prefer to remain anonymous.” (Translation: Hello everyone, I’m Andy, an informal representative of SWHK, speaking on behalf of other anonymous volunteers.)

Li claimed that Dimon is a member of an American NGO, Natalie is a member of some Canadian Hong Kong organizations, both responsible for lobbying work; Joey is the member of the Hong Kong Higher Institutions International Affairs Delegation (IAD) Joey Siu. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Li represented SWHK in the group. Li responded, “In the loose sense, my identity in this group is different from others; I used my real identity.”

Li added that his role is as introduced, “loosely a face from SWHK”. “Actually, before Luke added me to the group, I didn’t get SWHK’s approval or consensus.” Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping asked where he would get approval if needed. Li said, “I would discuss it in the main SWHK group to see if there’s a general consensus. If there are specific concerns or objections, we would discuss them further.”

He mentioned, “At least wait for about 24 hours because everyone is in different time zones. We need to give enough reasonable time for them to wake up and see the messages to discuss.”

10:08 Prosecutor questions Andy Li’s messages to Luke de Pulford

The prosecutor mentioned that after Luke de Pulford participated in the district council election observation group in Hong Kong in November 2019, Andy Li continued to communicate with him via Telegram from January to August 2020, showing relevant records.

On January 11, 2020, Li messaged de Pulford, “by the way nice to meet you again, I was the organizing committee chair back then at the Elections- the guy who was running around organizing logistics and who sat in the press conference as a rep from the committee.”

De Pulford replied the next day, “I remember well. Have thought of you often. And discussed you with Lord Alton often- who thinks you should be in politics.”

Li said, “oh we’re kind of playing the game that way. in that we need someone deliberately not in politics to leverage power from this side:)” Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping asked what Li meant by this sentence. Li explained that not being in politics provides more “room of maneuver.”

The prosecutor asked what “room of maneuver” meant. Li explained that it meant having no “political package”, meaning if one joins a political party or has a political identity, they must follow the party’s expectations, regulations, and policies. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping further asked who “We” referred to. Li said it referred to activists concerned about Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy at that time, such as “Lam Chau.”

10:01 Court session begins

The Witness

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