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Day 53: March 27, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | 53rd Day of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Andy Li Confirms Setting Up Website for “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China”; Luke de Pulford Had Contacted Jimmy Lai

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 continued its 53rd day of hearing on Wednesday (March 27th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The fourth co-defendant witness, Andy Li, testified for the tenth day.

The prosecution focused on the organization “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China” (IPAC). Li confirmed that Luke de Pulford, a member of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, had a part in establishing IPAC, which brings together parliamentarians from different countries concerned with issues related to China. He cited examples such as the Hong Kong National Security Law and extradition laws between various countries and China and Hong Kong.

Li also mentioned that de Pulford had asked for his assistance in the early stages, including setting up the website and contacting Japanese parliamentarians to participate in IPAC. He confirmed that he had asked de Pulford whether there was a need to contact Hong Kong media for support, to which de Pulford replied that he had already contacted Jimmy Lai.

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 Hong Kong practicing qualifications.

16:26 Court adjourned

15:30 Li: IPAC does not advocate for Hong Kong independence, “it’s impractical in diplomacy”

The prosecution continued to cite messages from Luke de Pulford, mentioning that he believes there needs to be “concrete action.” Li then mentioned in his messages, “Magnitsky – sanction at individual level, or economic sanction at country level…” Li explained in court that the Magnitsky Act mainly “targets individuals or entities that have committed human rights violations, applying specific measures to them.”

Li said that he was making some suggestions at the time. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if this was an “immature idea.” Li confirmed it was. The prosecution also cited messages where Li said, “Shiori herself raised Magnitsky, not economic independence from China, in the meeting call. I’d say if we were to persuade Japan to do one act, it would be coordinated global-Magnitsky.” Li mentioned that during the first online co-chair meeting, it was revealed that Shiori Yamao had raised the Magnitsky Act.

Li also mentioned in his messages that “the next item on the list should be cancelling special status…” He explained in court that this was because Hong Kong’s treatment in different jurisdictions is different from that of China.

Additionally, Li sent a message saying, “unless we are going to table HK independence (no, definitely not IPAC tabling) and have countries recognize it as an ultimate restorative justice, which is impractical diplomacy as far as I understand.” Li stated in court that the message clarified that they would not propose Hong Kong independence because it is not feasible in diplomacy.

Li: After the National Security Law, SWHK once issued a statement expressing concerns

The prosecution presented a conversation between Chan Tsz-wah and Li from July 23 of the same year. Li mentioned, “SWHK is considering sending me to work under Sharon Hom for 2 years, you take? Money aside, that’ll definitely be an income slash for me, but strategically it’s where we should be deploying me.” Li indicated that the message was actually meant to conceal the real identity of Shirley Ho.

The prosecution further questioned Li about his conversation with Luke de Pulford, asking if SWHK had written a statement regarding the impending National Security Law. Li added that at the time, a writer from SWHK was tasked with drafting the statement, which was sent to de Pulford on June 20, expressing concerns about the National Security Law.

The prosecution continued with a message from Li stating that other people from SWHK wanted to join the conversation and suggested opening a group with de Pulford. Eventually, Li created the group “SWHK IPAC,” which included members like de Pulford, Shirley Ho, Finn Lau, and other SWHK members.

The court was shown a message sent by Li, which stated:

There are two outcomes we could be shooting for:

  1. that we apply concerted international pressure enough to pressure Beijing to abandon the plans
  2. that we let the law passes, then frame it negatively, which then forces HK/int community to be more aggressive against China.

Li confirmed that the content was about the National Security Law. The prosecution asked why they wanted to negatively portray the National Security Law. Li said, “To force Hong Kong or the international community to be more aggressive, that was my thinking at the time.” He explained that “frame” meant “to report on the National Security Law in a negative light.”

14:31 Li: Discussed with Chan Tsz-wah whether to stay in Hong Kong after the National Security Law came into effect

The prosecution continued to question Andy Li about his role in IPAC, and Li claimed that he was responsible for editing IPAC’s website. Li stated that articles for the website were provided by Luke de Pulford or two other members of the IPAC central secretariat, Sam Armstrong and Andrew Lawrence. Sam Armstrong should be a member of the Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank.

The court showed an email sent by Andrew Lawrence to Li on July 6, 2020, which read, “I would be very grateful if you would make the following addition to the website as soon as possible,” with attached article content. Li replied, “article published and deployed.”

The prosecution then showed an article published on the IPAC website on the same day titled “Statement from Simon O’Connor MP and Louisa Wall MP.” Li confirmed that the article was provided by Andrew Lawrence. Another email from Lawrence to Li on July 10, titled “The Bear in the Room,” was also shown, and Li confirmed that the corresponding article on the IPAC website was sent by Lawrence.

Regarding Li’s role in IPAC, Li mentioned that if he joined the central secretariat as an individual, he could continue international lobbying in that direction, “being visible on one hand.” Li continued, during that period, there were rumors about the enactment of the National Security Law, which was indeed implemented later. Li discussed with Chan Tsz-wah whether he should stay in Hong Kong or leave. He also discussed with the American theoretical astrophysicist Shirley Ho, who asked if Li was willing to work under Sharon Hom, the executive director of “Human Rights in China.” “The idea was for me to work in the US under Sharon Hom, or if the situation allowed, I could stay in Hong Kong but work under Sharon Hom,” Li recalled.

After discussing with Chan Tsz-wah, they tended not to accept the proposal and instead continued to assist SWHK. “If I really had to go abroad, T (Chan) and I preferred that I go to the UK to help Luke de Pulford. Maybe in some capacity for IPAC or help other NGOs based there,” Li added.

12:51 Lunch break
12:19 Li confirms that SWHK joined IPAC in 2020

The prosecution asked whether SWHK eventually joined the IPAC central secretariat, and Li confirmed that they did. The prosecution showed a conversation between Li and de Pulford, in which de Pulford stated that he had informed IPAC that SWHK would become an “advisor” unless someone objected. De Pulford later mentioned that labeling SWHK as an “advisor” was not accurate and needed further consideration. He suggested that listing SWHK in the “central secretariat” was more accurate, and IPAC also hoped to include SWHK in the central secretariat.

The prosecution showed a post published by SWHK in June 2020, stating, “Lam Chau team officially joins the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) central secretariat.” The prosecution then asked what assistance SWHK provided to IPAC at that time. Li stated that he helped IPAC set up a website, contacted Japanese parliamentarians, and collaborated with other SWHK members and de Pulford, providing technical support, among other things.

The prosecution further asked whether SWHK’s lobbying work changed after joining the central secretariat. Li replied, “It added a direction to reach out to an international audience, especially international parliamentarians.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang questioned the Chinese phrase “Lam Chau team officially joins the global anti-communist ‘International Alliance’ IPAC” in the post, which corresponded to the English “SWHK joins IPAC.” He asked if the Chinese name of SWHK was “Lam Chau Team” in June 2020. Li said it was not and added that when “Lam Chau” posted on the LIHKG or Telegram “Lam Chau channel,” “Lam Chau Team” was used as a rendering, with more voices in SWHK not opposing it than those opposing it. “But still, everyone was not very comfortable adopting this name as a corresponding one.”

11:37 Break

11:00 Li: Discussed with Chan Tsz-wah whether SWHK should join IPAC

Regarding the establishment of IPAC, the prosecution presented a message from June 5, 2020, in which Luke de Pulford sent a Twitter post link saying, “Today we launched.” Li confirmed that IPAC was established on that day.

Li also mentioned that he had discussed the work of assisting IPAC with Chan Tsz-wah, who would respond with words of encouragement like “keep it up.” Li said that after IPAC was established, they also discussed whether he or SWHK, “which at that time was already trying to approach different politicians in different countries for lobbying,” should join. Once IPAC was formed, its member list included “most of the politicians we wanted to approach… So, since I could directly access IPAC, if we could develop this connection, international lobbying would be much more efficient.”

As for Li’s role in assisting IPAC, he also discussed this with Chan. Li recalled that after the establishment of IPAC, there was a suggestion to add his volunteer role to the “central secretariat” for IT support or secretariat work. The discussion involved concerns about whether this would “disclose too much about me or make me too high-profile, giving an undeserved impression.” Li added, “It’s like a Hongkonger grabbing the microphone. That is, not knowing how things work inside, suddenly a Hongkonger grabs the microphone and the spotlight, which is even worse for the whole movement.”

Regarding these concerns, there was a discussion at the time about whether SWHK should join the “central secretariat” instead. However, this proposal also raised doubts about whether everyone in SWHK agreed with this action and whether joining IPAC would bring unnecessary risks. As for IPAC’s side, de Pulford also mentioned that many parliamentarians did not want SWHK to join, as it would break IPAC’s “non-partisan and free from alliance stance.” Li described that besides SWHK, there were other advocates and “lobbying organizations” that wanted to join IPAC, but de Pulford refused them on the grounds that IPAC was non-partisan and not an alliance.

Li also mentioned that Chan Tsz-wah did not oppose him or SWHK joining IPAC, “but at that time, both T (Chan) and I were weighing the issue of my personal profile and the direction I was taking.” Li continued, “In the end, there was no conclusion until I was arrested.”

10:45 Messages show de Pulford communicating with Jimmy L
Li confirms that the person referred to is Jimmy Lai

The prosecution asked what the difference was between becoming a “co-chair” and a regular member. Li explained that during IPAC meetings, to avoid having too many people at once, which would be difficult to manage, “co-chairs” were invited to the meetings. Additionally, when de Pulford established IPAC, he wanted to form a “non-partisan alliance. If there are two co-chairs from each group in the parliament from different political spectrums, it would create a balanced and non-partisan composition.”

The prosecution cited a message from Li to de Pulford, which mentioned “We got Japan MPs” and listed three names. The prosecution noted that this message indicated Li’s work in international lobbying, as he had lobbied Japanese parliamentarians to join IPAC. Li responded that at the time, he was responsible for contacting Shiori Yamao, who then contacted other parliamentarians.

The prosecution displayed a message from Li to de Pulford, in which Li asked, “For media, do u need support at HK side?” De Pulford replied, “I’m just briefing Jimmy L will give you press release.” Li confirmed that “Jimmy L” refers to Jimmy Lai. The prosecution asked why media support was needed at that time. Li explained that if de Pulford indicated a need for media support, he “would bounce this thread to someone in SWHK with media connections, and let them handle it.”

10:15 Li confirms assistance provided to the “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China” (IPAC)

The prosecution began questioning about the organization “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China” (IPAC). Li confirmed that Luke de Pulford had a part in assisting the establishment of IPAC, an organization that brings together parliamentarians concerned with China-related issues, “to discuss responses… and coordinate these parliamentarians if needed.” The issues involved were broadly related to China, including trade dependencies on China, the upcoming “Hong Kong National Security Law,” and extradition treaties between various countries and China/Hong Kong.

Li mentioned that de Pulford had asked him to assist with some preparatory work before IPAC was publicly announced, including setting up a website and contacting Japanese parliamentarians to join IPAC. Li also confirmed that he provided assistance in his personal capacity, not as SWHK (Stand with Hong Kong), and until his arrest, he was the only one who could edit the website.

The prosecution cited a message from de Pulford to Li on May 29, 2020, in which de Pulford asked, “Any news from Japan?” Li had responded that Shiori Yamao was interested in participating in IPAC and mentioned a “co-chair position.”

Li added that according to IPAC’s requirements set by de Pulford, “IPAC would want two co-chairs in each parliament” to represent that parliament, “hoping for two main political parties or political spectrums.” For example, in the US, it would be the Democratic and Republican parties. In Japan’s case, since Shiori Yamao was a member of the “opposition… she would be the co-chair of IPAC for Japan from the opposition.”

10:05 Prosecution questions about the “Japan Front”

Li continued to be questioned by the prosecution’s Anthony Chau Tin-hang, focusing on Li’s visit to meet then-MP Shiori Yamao in Japan. Li previously stated that he didn’t remember the exact date of the meeting but recalled it was in early 2020. On Wednesday (March 27th), the prosecution displayed a communication between Li and Luke de Pulford from March 8, 2020, which showed Li messaging, “I just got back from Tokyo.” Li confirmed that this message referred to his meeting with Yamao in Tokyo. When asked by the prosecution what he meant by “Japan Front” in the message, Li responded that it referred to “activities related to Japan.”

10:03 Court session began

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