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Day 56: April 09, 2024

The Witness: Live Update: Jimmy Lai Trial Day 56 – Andy Li: Discussed with Chan Tsz-wah about Leaving Hong Kong to Form a “Government in Exile”

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital, and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other crimes. The case entered its 56th day of trial on Tuesday (9th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), with Andy Li, the fourth accomplice witness, testifying for the 13th day.

Andy Li confirmed that in July 2020, he exchanged messages with Chan Tsz-wah discussing the international and social movement situations. At that time, they believed they were facing a “bottleneck” and a “power vacuum,” and there was a need to “prop up a ‘public figure'” to bring momentum to the movement. Since they could not find a suitable candidate, Li said Chan once stated, “Shit, then I’ll do it, damn it,” and mentioned that the “public figure” would need to leave Hong Kong to organize a “Hong Kong government in exile” elsewhere.

Regarding Chan’s message to Li asking, “Have you sorted out all the things in Hong Kong yet?” Li replied that he had “sorted out family matters.” In court, Li explained that since there were “political prosecutions in Hong Kong… whether leaving or staying in Hong Kong, all things in Hong Kong must be settled.”

12:56 Court Adjourns

12:12 Prosecution examines a list of 30 sanctions targets on Andy Li’s phone
Li: Don’t remember who sent it

The prosecution continued to ask questions about the press releases “APPG Inquiry report reveals Hong Kong tolerated the abuse of humanitarian and medical workers” from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong and SWHK. Li stated that the information was given to him by SWHK members for reference.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang cited the document mentioning that the report referenced over 1,000 pieces of evidence and was a large-scale study. Li indicated that he was aware of “different inquiries going on at the time, but I didn’t pay attention to who was doing what,” and he did not participate in the related studies.

The prosecution presented another document retrieved from Li’s computer, titled “Investigation Report of potential Sanction targets for Hong Kong Human Right democracy Act” and “Phase 1- The Gang of Thirty.” The document listed some sanction targets in 6 categories, including former Chief Executive Carrie Lam and members of the Executive Council, totaling 30 people. Li stated he didn’t remember who or when provided him with the report, and he did not follow up after receiving it, nor did he know if the report was eventually made public.

The prosecution also presented the “SWHK IPAC” TG group, where Li mentioned a list of disqualified candidates for the Legislative Council election, including Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, and Joshua Wong. Luke de Pulford, a member of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and co-founder of IPAC, issued a statement through IPAC, which Li uploaded online. Li also helped translate the statement into Japanese for JPAC.

The prosecution stated that they need time to prepare documents and the court adjourned the trial until Wednesday (10th).

11:24 Break

11:26 Li: SWHK members represent Hongkongers to facilitate lobbying

The prosecution presented a SWHK press release with the spokesperson listed as “John Song,” which Andy Li confirmed was a pseudonym. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if there were any SWHK members using their real names as spokespersons in August 2020. Andy Li stated, “I’ve been the ‘public face’ a few times using my real identity, and there definitely have been real people meeting with MPs in the UK, but I don’t know who they are.”

The prosecution asked if there were any other Hongkongers using their real identities besides Li. Li mentioned that there are many activists in Hong Kong, “but SWHK’s focus isn’t on local events in Hong Kong. The theme is Hong Kong, but there are already many people doing a lot of things on the ground in Hong Kong, so there’s no need for an SWHK ‘public face’ here.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Andy Li was the only ‘public face’ of SWHK. Li replied, “I’m only half of one,” because there was no consensus in SWHK on being a ‘public face.’ “Because if you’re going to stand up and speak, it’s supposed to represent the consensus of the entire SWHK.”

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping asked who represents SWHK. Li said, “It’s better to say that on different occasions, SWHK identity has been used to do different things and meet different people.” He added, “Instead of representing SWHK, it should be said to represent Hongkongers. Then there’s a group of SWHK or other Hong Kong organizations volunteering to facilitate lobbying,” such as “Lam Chau Bar,” “Village Chief,” and Zhang Yicheng (張亦澄), who have also met with the then-Japanese lawmaker Shiori Yamao.

11:18 Judge asks if all members of SWHK agreed to the Chinese translation as “Lam Chau Team”

The prosecution presented in court a press release from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong published on August 4, 2020, found on Li’s computer, and a press release from SWHK (Renaissance Team) titled “U.S. Congressional Report Confirms Hong Kong Police Violence in Protest Actions.”

The prosecution asked what the relationship was between the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong (APPG) press release and SWHK. Li stated, “SWHK engaged Whitehouse consultancy, and I’m not sure exactly how Whitehouse consultancy helped APPG on HK members in the UK.”

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping was concerned that the SWHK press release listed SWHK’s Chinese name as “Lam Chau Team.” Prosecution Anthony Chau Tin-hang added that the APPG press release also translated SWHK as “Lam Chau Team.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if the name “Lam Chau Team” was commonly used in press releases. Andy Li said “not very often” and explained that in the context of that time, the members felt that instead of deliberating over the Chinese name, it would be better to do something more meaningful.

Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked if members who disagreed with using “Lam Chau Team” would still allow other members to use it. Andy Li said that the consensus was on the English name, and since “Lam Chau Bar” Finn Lau was mainly responsible for releasing Chinese materials, using “Lam Chau Team” or labels related to “Lam Chau” to reach the audience of “Lam Chau Bar” would have more resonance.

Alex Lee Wan-tang then asked if, in that situation, even if SWHK members disagreed with using “Lam Chau Team,” they would still tolerate it. Andy Li said they would tolerate it on some occasions.

The prosecution showed the SWHK webpage, which mentioned, “We further support the APPG’s call for Magnitsky-style sanction.” They asked if SWHK supported the APPG’s call for sanctions. Li agreed.

11:15 Li: Political persecution emerged after the National Security Law

The court continued to show that on August 10, 2020, Li sent a message mentioning that when someone “gets into trouble,” people would advise him and Chan to leave. Chan replied, “As a leader, I have to be the last one standing,” and “Let’s go, if I leave, who will lead the team?” Li stated in court that “getting into trouble” meant someone being arrested by the police, and during that period, the two often discussed whether they should leave Hong Kong. There were also discussions about the pros and cons of leaving Hong Kong after the implementation of the National Security Law, as political persecution emerged.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if, at that time, Andy Li expected to be arrested for violating the National Security Law. Li responded, “It’s more like don’t expect anything, no matter what the regime says, they will find a way to arrest me.”

11:00 Judge asks why still considering “going public” after the National Security Law was implemented
Andy Li: Hong Kong’s political persecution environment was already bad

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked, since the National Security Law had already been implemented at that time, why was Andy Li still considering “going public”? Andy Li explained, “Because even if we don’t step forward, Hong Kong will still be ruled by the Hong Kong regime controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, so we have already fallen into an environment with political persecution. In other words, it’s already bad enough.” In this context, discussions about forming an exile government emerged.

Li added that there are two prerequisites for forming an exile government: first, the exile government must leave Hong Kong because “it will be blocked by the Hong Kong regime if it’s in Hong Kong.” Additionally, there needs to be a “public figure” because an exile government with only “hidden figures” “won’t be taken seriously.” If there is an exile government, the work of international lobbying should “be put under the exile government.”

The court continued to cite the messages between the two, with Li asking Chan, “The team member asked if they should kick you out of TG because of Fat Lai’s incident.” Chan indicated there was no need. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked what the team member had asked at that time. Li explained that the team member noticed that Chan’s TG account was “too well-connected” and suspected that the account might be one of “Fat Lai’s” accounts. Since Lai was arrested by the national security police at that time, the team member asked Li if that account should be removed.

Li recalled that he conveyed the team member’s concern to Chan Tsz-wah. The court showed messages where Li told Chan, “Someone noticed that this acct is too well connected,” and “Initially thought that the acct was one of Fat Lai’s.”

10:20 Andy Li: Discussed with Chan Tsz-wah about becoming a “public figure” and considered leaving Hong Kong to form an “exile government.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked about the conversation between Andy Li and Chan Tsz-wah, which mentioned former Legislative Council member Baggio Leung Chung-hang, former convenor of the Hong Kong National Party Chan Ho-tin, former employee of the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong Simon Cheng, and former editor-in-chief of the University of Hong Kong’s “Undergrad” magazine Brian Leung Kai-ping. Andy Li stated in court that they were “counting who would be good as a public figure.” He further explained that he and Chan Tsz-wah were discussing Li’s future work direction at the time, talking about the international and social movement situations. They believed there would be a “bottleneck or power vacuum,” so they discussed “pushing a public figure forward to provide impetus for the movement,” and they were counting who could fill that position.

The court showed that Li sent a message saying, “After counting…conclusion: no one” and “no public figure.” Chan responded with “Shit” and “Then I’ll do it, fuck.” Li then asked, “Really?” and stated, “We need at least one public figure to leave Hong Kong and start a government elsewhere.” Chan further said, “Still have to ask the Hong Kong Indigenous group.” Li continued, “I’ve asked around one or two circles of people, quite a lot. Still have Hong Kong Indigenous & Studentlocalism?”

Li explained in court that “the Hong Kong Indigenous group” referred to the organization Hong Kong Indigenous. When Li concluded there were no “public figures,” Chan said, “Shit then I’ll do it, fuck,” indicating that Chan had considered “Then I’ll do it, fuck” at that moment. Then Chan asked, “Still have to ask the Hong Kong Indigenous group,” meaning “Should we ask them first?” The “public figure” would need to leave Hong Kong to start a “Hong Kong exile government.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if they were seriously discussing this. Andy Li explained that when he asked “Really?” in the message, he meant “Are we really going to find a public figure to leave Hong Kong and start a government?” and “Is it really going to be T (Chan)?” meaning “Are you (Chan) really thinking of doing this?” Andy Li stated in court that they were considering this proposal at the time.

Regarding the mention of “targeting” in the conversation, Li said it referred to political persecution or political prosecution. At that time, Chan mentioned that others would be “targetted,” and Li responded, “Whether I fight or not, if the regime wants to target me, they will target me; if the regime wants to apply retroactive laws, they will do so; if the regime wants to settle scores after the fact, they will do so. My judgment is that whether others get targeted seems not to depend on whether I fight or not.”

10:05 Andy Li: There are political prosecutions in Hong Kong, so I needed to arrange things for my family.

The prosecution continued to question Andy Li regarding his messages with Chan Tsz-wah. The court was shown on Monday (8th) that Chan asked Li if he had “arranged everything in Hong Kong” and mentioned that “ultimately, everyone around you will be targeted.” Li responded at that time that he had “sorted out the family members that needed to be sorted.”

The prosecution further asked what Li meant by arranging for his family. Li explained that since there are “political prosecutions in Hong Kong, not just here, I needed to arrange things in Hong Kong.” When asked whether he meant leaving or staying in Hong Kong, Li stated, “Whether leaving or staying in Hong Kong, I need to settle things in Hong Kong.”

The prosecution also noted that Li mentioned on Monday that “going to fight” in the messages referred to “coming to the forefront, becoming a public figure.” Li further explained on Tuesday that a “public figure” is “someone famous, using their real name,” while an “under-the-table person” is “someone not using their real name.” Li gave an example that many users on Telegram are “under-the-table people.” Li continued to explain that this meant continuing to do international lobbying and other work.

10:02 Court resumes

The Witness

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