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Day 60: April 15, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Jimmy Lai’s Trial Day 60 Chan Tsz-Wah: Lai Hoped for Restraint from the “Valiants”

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, along with three affiliated companies, is charged with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” among other charges. The trial continued on its 60th day at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, acting as the High Court, on Monday. Chen Tsz-wah, the fifth accomplice witness, testified for the second day, stating he had met with Jimmy Lai, who indicated that contact could be made through his assistant, Mark Simon, who would assist as much as possible. Lai also suggested contacting the leaders of the “valiant faction” (non-peaceful protesters) to “restrain themselves” as their actions of destruction on the streets could cause Hong Kong to lose international support, especially from the United States.

Chen began his testimony last Friday, discussing the “G20” crowdfunding newspaper ad campaign in June 2019. Due to the crowdfunding platform withholding funds, they needed a “bridge loan,” so Chen contacted Jimmy Lai through Martin Lee, with Lai’s assistant Mark Simon responding that the plan was in line with their political views and Lai was willing to advance HK$5 million.

The case is presided over by judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang under the National Security Law.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 Prosecuting Officer 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.

16:33 Court Adjourned

16:10 Chan Confirms Newspaper Exhibition Funded by Mark Simon with a Check from ‘Lai Chee Ying’

Chan added that both Mark Simon and Jimmy Lai were interested in holding exhibitions, with Mark Simon sponsoring HK$30,000 for a newspaper exhibition. The prosecution asked if Chan had organized other exhibitions apart from the newspaper exhibition. Chan confirmed that he had, including various street stations. He described the exhibitions as primarily featuring newspapers from the “G20” ad campaign, but as visitors did not understand the languages involved, “it was meaningless,” and the exhibition gradually “shifted to include more street-created promotions and sponsored more diverse types of promotional activities.” The themes were related to the anti-extradition law, with exhibitions held in places like Tai Po, Central, and Taiwan. Chan noted that the exhibitions were mainly organized under the names of other groups, and while Andy Li volunteered at one exhibition, he did not participate in other street stations or exhibitions.

Chan confirmed that he had initially covered the costs for setting up street stations and exhibitions, which were later reimbursed by Mark Simon. The prosecution displayed Chan’s bank statement, showing a deposit of HK$144,100 by “House Cheque” on October 11, 2019. The court was shown the relevant check, which listed “Chan Tsz Wah” as the payee and “Lai Chee Ying” as the check holder, involving HK$144,100.

Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping questioned the names “SWHK” and “Lam Chau Team,” citing a press release from the “All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong” that displayed both names. Chan explained that the “APPG” originated in the UK, and at that time, the UK line referred to the “Lam Chau Team.” Chan expressed confusion over why “SWHK,” known as the “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” was called the “Lam Chau Team.” He noted that some promotional materials introduced themselves using the “SWHK” name but also used “Lam Chau Team.”

Chan described “Lam Chau Team” as synonymous with the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team,” but “SWHK” officially as “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” describing the terms as “interchangeable.” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked, so within SWHK there are different sub-groups, most belonging to the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team,” and this press release was written by them? Chan confirmed that essentially, matters related to SWHK’s UK affairs were handled by the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team.” Chan mentioned that in the large group there are different subgroups, called “working groups.” Chan explained that SWHK “divides by line and country,” with the third crowdfunding campaign for newspaper ads adding Finland and Denmark because “Lam Chau Pa” wanted to develop a “Nordic line.” Over time, “the American and British lines have dominated SWHK because they have the most people and resources.”

15:53 Chan: Mark Simon Suggested Hosting a Hong Kong Exhibition on Capitol Hill

Chan previously stated that Mark Simon suggested hosting exhibitions in different countries. The prosecution asked if Chan had further discussions with Mark Simon about the exhibitions. Chan recalled that Mark Simon urged him to provide newspapers and promotional posters. Additionally, Chan mentioned that during a WhatsApp call, Mark Simon proposed that Chan and Andy Li “consider using a commercial office space on Capitol Hill” for an exhibition or lobbying center to “tell people what is happening in Hong Kong,” with themes related to the anti-extradition bill movement. Chan remembered Mark Simon humorously saying “give a taste to HK,” and subsequently relayed Mark Simon’s suggestion to Li, who responded that “someone had already mentioned it before.” Chan continued, noting that Li had previously mentioned “a similar concept… a global Hong Kong center, but it wasn’t a very serious discussion.”

The prosecution further inquired if Mark Simon knew Andy Li. Chan confirmed he did, mentioning that during the initial crowdfunding, some documents were written in Li’s name, and Chan had mentioned Li to Mark Simon when they signed a promissory note. Mark Simon and Li also met in late September 2019 with U.S. Senator Rick Scott.

Chan described Mark Simon as “grumpy,” so he “actually disliked it whenever Andy Li sought his help at the last minute.” Chan humorously noted that sometimes “you could hear him (Mark Simon) grumbling, but he highly regarded Andy Li’s capabilities.”

15:27 Chan: Significant Disagreements in the Team After the Third Crowdfunding

The prosecution asked if there were discussions with Andy Li about further similar advertisement campaigns after the third crowdfunding for advertisements. Chan recalled that Mark Simon had commented that “actually, publishing in physical newspapers isn’t the best method for promotion.” By late August to September, Chan and Li pondered whether to continue in the same vein. Li described the newspaper ads as “like fireworks; the first time it’s great and sharp, the second time it’s still okay, but after that, it becomes pointless.” Chan recounted that Li also proposed, “Should we do more international lobbying instead?” Chan said besides using newspapers in exhibitions, “there was no conclusion at the time.”

Chan added that at the time, the team had “significant disagreements.” This was because the whole “SWHK,” at that time known as the “G20” and the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team (JD Team),” was very successful with the newspaper ads—everything from crowdfunding, designing, to layout was handled by the “G20” team. The “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team,” located in the UK, seemed to Chan to want to ride on the “G20” team’s ability to raise funds and publish ads, having raised about double the funds, around HK$14 million.

Chan continued, regarding how to use the raised HK$14 million, whether to spend it on more ads or other activities like hiring consultancy firms or organizing rallies, “there were significant disagreements.” Key figures included the LIHKG user “家樂牌通心粉” (Knorr Macaroni),” who represented the “G20” team, and Andy Li, who represented the “JD” team. “To avoid further ads, Andy Li left the (TG) group,” Chan mentioned. He also noted that Li had asked him “if he would support him,” and Chan was pulled into the group only to leave it later. Chan described that Li wanted other active core members to see that there wouldn’t be another backer in the group to support financially.

After he left the group, Chan “quietly re-entered the ‘G20’ side,” which eventually led to the decision to stop publishing in newspapers and for those wishing to continue to leave altogether. The remaining members became what is now known as the “SWHK” Team. Chan described, “After this incident, the whole ‘SWHK’ was basically controlled by RIP (Li) and a few people, a minority calling the shots.” Subsequently, “SWHK” formed a “board” including Andy Li, “Lam Chow Ba,” and a few others, but not including Chan himself. Chan noted that at the time, the leadership of the “Lam Chau Team” included “Lam Chow Ba,” Andy Li, and members from the U.S. line like Surely. Chan mentioned that HK$7 to 8 million from the trust fund “The Project Hong Kong Trust” was “controlled by that group.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang inquired if the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Team” was leading SWHK at the time? Chan agreed, hence there was a debate about the Chinese name of the team, with some wanting it to be named “Lam Chau Team,” but everyone eventually agreed on “SWHK Team.”

15:00 Prosecution Inquires About Nikkei Newspaper Ad Payment Details

The prosecution revisited the situation with the Nikkei newspaper ad, where a Nikkei staff member emailed Chan about receiving a payment of HK$1.47 million from Andy Li, scheduled to publish the ad on August 19, 2019. Chan elaborated in court that the “G20 X Lam Chau Team” was determined to secure the ad slot in Nikkei on that specific date, but it was a last-minute arrangement, “I talked to Mark Simon about it. However, the Nikkei, being meticulous as the Japanese are, insisted that the payment had to be made first.”

Chan added that Andy Li “took the money himself to the Nikkei office,” and “he literally prostrated himself, pleading with them not to cash the check but to hold it and give us the ad space on that day.” Chan mentioned that, as far as he knew, this was not possible and that the Canadian side had already made the payment. Once the Canadian funds reached Nikkei, they would refund Andy Li. The prosecution displayed a payment receipt from the Canadian Meridian Bank for HK$1.47 million. Chan confirmed that Mark Simon provided this receipt, which he then passed on to Andy Li.

The prosecution also presented invoices for ads in two Swedish newspapers and a Korean media company. Chan confirmed that he had forwarded these to Mark Simon, and then handed over the payment receipts provided by Mark Simon to Andy Li.

14:32 Chan Confirms Mark Simon Underwrote Third Crowdfunding

The prosecution continued to inquire about the third “G20 X Anti-Extradition Team” crowdfunding campaign for advertisements. During questioning, Chan confirmed that at the time, Mark Simon agreed to underwrite the advertising costs for the campaign. The prosecution displayed an email dated August 16, 2019, sent by Chan to staff at the Spanish media company Oblicua Publicidad and Andy Li, stating, “The payment confirmation will be sent to you shortly. I have already instructed the bank in Canada to release the funds.”

The prosecution also showed an invoice from Oblicua Publicidad for €18,500 in advertising fees. Chan confirmed that after receiving the invoice, he forwarded it to Mark Simon. Subsequently, Mark Simon indicated that he had instructed a Canadian bank to make the payment, and Chan informed Andy Li. Chan added that at that time, payments for six newspapers were made by the Canadian side. The prosecution then displayed a payment receipt from the Canadian bank Meridian for €18,500. Chan confirmed that Mark Simon had sent it to him, and he then passed it on to Andy Li.

12:39 Lunch Recess

11:58 Chan Tsz-wah States Mark Simon Received Crowdfunding Through Personal Account

During court proceedings, the prosecution displayed email correspondence. One of the emails, sent by Chan Tsz-wah on September 7, 2019, to a staff member of the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, instructed the initiation of processes to handle the crowdfunding money, providing Mark Simon’s address and account details.

Chan added in court that at the time, Andy Li was unable to withdraw the crowdfunding money, “At that time, I knew they (the crowdfunding platform) were reluctant to release the funds, saying they needed to do KYC (know your client) and such.” Chan continued, stating the team then needed an individual’s account, after which he asked Mark Simon, who provided his personal account. Chan noted that, to his knowledge, Mark Simon did indeed receive the crowdfunding funds.

Chan further mentioned that, as he understood at the time, once Mark Simon’s account received the crowdfunding, Andy Li’s side was supposed to arrange for someone else to receive the funds. However, around September to October, Chan learned that a trust fund had been established to receive the funds, and thereafter the entire ‘SWHK’ team continued to operate with the funds from this trust. “Concerning the authority over this trust, initially, I only knew ‘RIP’ (Andy Li),” but later learned that someone named ‘Surely’ was also involved.

11:17 Recess
As Chan Tsz-wah left the courtroom, he nodded towards the defendant’s area where Lai was seated.

10:55 Chan Tsz-wah Identifies Core Members of SWHK as Andy Li, Finn Lau, and LIHKG User ‘Knorr Macaroni’

During the prosecution’s questioning about the third ad campaign “G20 X Resist Camp”, Chan Tsz-wah confirmed that the campaign took place in August 2019. It aimed to draw international attention to police brutality in Hong Kong and called for an international halt to the sale of arms to Hong Kong police. The campaign was a collaboration between the ‘G20’ ad team and the ‘Lam Chau Team’, which later became known as ‘SWHK’. Chan described that the core members of ‘SWHK’ were indeed key figures from the ‘G20’ team and the ‘Sino-British Joint Declaration Ad Campaign’ team. These core members included Andy Li, who was involved in both teams, Finn Lau, and the LIHKG user known as ‘Knorr Macaroni’.

Chan continued, noting that the fundraising for this third ad campaign was done in US dollars. Andy Li was responsible for managing the financial aspects. Chan recalled a phone call from Li stating that they were unable to receive the funds, prompting Chan to inquire further. Li explained that they needed someone to “provide a bank account.” When asked why Li could not use his own account, he explained that the team “did not want the money to flow back to Hong Kong, so a US account would be preferable.”

In court, Chan stated that while Li did not specify, he understood that Li wanted him to “ask Mark Simon to provide this account, so I called Mark Simon.” Chan explained the situation to Simon, discussed the team’s difficulties, and after their conversation, Simon agreed, saying “all right.” Subsequently, Li emailed him with “a bunch of questions” including details about the bank account and profession, which Chan forwarded to Simon. Chan then relayed Simon’s responses back to Li, advising them to contact each other directly.

Regarding the ad campaign, Chan continued, noting that Simon suggested not to limit the campaign to physical newspapers but to digitize it, proposing online promotion and social media platforms, particularly emphasizing Twitter. Chan confirmed that this was to reach a broader audience. Chan described how Simon was also concerned about whether the team needed to advance any funds. Chan indicated that initially, there was no need, but later Li mentioned the need for an advance to pay for the ads. Chan then contacted Simon about the advance, who mentioned that previously advanced funds had not yet been repaid. However, after confirming that Li had transferred the funds to the ‘Chartwell’ account, Simon agreed to proceed with the advance, similar to the ‘G20’ situation.

10:44 Chan Tsz-wah Claims He Co-Organized ‘G20’ Ad Campaign Exhibition, Later Reimbursed by Mark Simon

Chan Tsz-wah previously stated that following the ‘G20’ ad campaign, Mark Simon discussed continuing the impact of the campaign, such as by organizing exhibitions. On Monday, Chan further explained that between July and August 2019, he had discussions with Simon about the exhibition details. Simon mentioned that he and Jimmy Lai wanted to host “newspaper exhibitions” in various locations and asked Chan to help identify 20 newspapers from the ‘G20’ ad campaign. Chan also co-organized a newspaper exhibition in Hong Kong, for which Simon agreed to sponsor, though the exact amount was not initially specified. Chan indicated that the purpose of the exhibition was to “echo our demands from the anti-extradition law and the five demands,” aiming to garner international attention.

Chan mentioned that he personally advanced about HK$30,000 for the Hong Kong exhibition, with Andy Li participating. Later, the costs were reimbursed by Mark Simon. The prosecution presented Chan’s HSBC bank statement, showing a deposit of HK$30,000 from Simon on August 2.

10:30 Chan Tsz-wah Indicates Difficulty in Contacting ‘Valiant Faction,’ Tells Jimmy Lai It’s Unfeasible

Chan Tsz-wah explained that at the time, Jimmy Lai believed that the ‘valiant faction’ had a significant influence, with protesters following the commands of a select few. Chan detailed that there were various groups on Telegram, some managed by the ‘valiant faction’, leading Lai to believe Chan could make contact. When asked why Lai thought Chan could reach the ‘valiant faction’, Chan mentioned that he had indicated his previous interactions within these groups, which included valiants and publicity handlers, prompting Lai to urge Chan to attempt contact. Chan also agreed to try. Prosecution asked whether Martin Lee had spoken at the meeting, Chan confirmed that Lee said, “Try some of the sashimi.”

Chan further described the dynamics within these groups, where individuals often aired grievances against the government. However, there were instances of extreme actions like protesters throwing Molotov cocktails, sometimes mistakenly hitting their own people. In such cases, the more peaceful protesters would argue that peaceful demonstrations didn’t need to be so radical, although others believed only radical actions would compel the government to respond.

Chan also mentioned the challenges he faced when trying to follow Lai’s instructions to contact the ‘valiant faction’. The primary issue was verifying if someone was indeed part of the ‘valiants,’ and if confirmed, “Why would they admit to me they were ‘valiants’?” Chan later candidly reported back to Lai that he was unable to make contact with the ‘valiant faction’.

10:17 Chan Tsz-wah: Jimmy Lai Wanted to Contact ‘Valiant Faction’ to Urge Restraint

During the July 2019 meeting between Chan Tsz-wah and Jimmy Lai, Chan confirmed their first meeting took place at a restaurant in Sheung Wan, owned by the younger brother of the former vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Albert Ho Chun-yan. Present at the meeting was also the founding chairman of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee. Chan was informed about this lunch by Lee via a WhatsApp call, where Lee mentioned it was a “lunch appointment with Jimmy Lai, and he wanted me to attend,” but did not specify the purpose of the meeting.

Chan recounted that upon his arrival at the restaurant’s private room, Lai, citing security reasons, requested that Chan hand over his mobile phone to the staff. As the meal began and Chan attempted to introduce himself, Lai “interrupted me, saying there was no need for introductions as Mark Simon had already told him about me and had done a preliminary check.”

Lai also stated during the meal that if Chan needed to contact him, he could do so through Mark Simon, who would try to assist and meet his demands. Mark Simon was in daily communication with Lai and reported to him regularly.

Additionally, Lai specifically requested that Chan reach out to the leaders of the ‘valiant faction’ because their actions were “creating a bad image,” referring to the violent protests, such as vandalism, arson, and destruction of public facilities. Lai believed that these incidents could lead to a loss of international, particularly U.S., support. Hence, Lai proposed a ‘purification plan’ to contact the valiant leaders to “encourage them to exercise restraint.” Lai mentioned that if the youth “couldn’t achieve something, his media’s influence could accomplish it.” Chan added that at the time, Lai wanted him to provide contact information for the valiant leaders “to see if a dialogue could be established.”

10:10 Chan Tsz-wah on Andy Li’s Persuasion to Join the Group, and His Refusal

The prosecution began questioning about the second crowdfunding campaign for the newspaper advertisement in July 2019, known as the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Ad Campaign” (JD Campaign). The prosecution asked if this ad campaign was related to the anti-extradition law movement. Chan confirmed its relevance, noting that at the time, the “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” team believed that the amendment of the Extradition Law diminished Hong Kong’s freedoms and violated the Sino-British Joint Declaration, thus the ad campaign also condemned China for violating this declaration.

Regarding his earlier testimony, Chan said he had suggested that Andy Li help with the crowdfunding for the “Sino-British Joint Declaration Ad Campaign.” When asked by the prosecution if Li had requested his assistance for this ad campaign, Chan recalled that Li had tried to persuade him to “join the group,” but Chan “quickly refused.” Subsequently, Li told Chan that he needed to use a photo related to the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, claiming the rights to the photo belonged to Apple Daily.

Chan said he did not understand “why that particular photo was necessary,” and “Li then asked if I could help ask, so I told him if it’s not urgent, I could ask Jimmy Lai when I see him later. But then Li said it was urgent, so I directly called Mark Simon.” Chan continued, explaining to Mark Simon that the team needed the photo but it was copyrighted by Apple Daily and needed authorization; Mark Simon responded that “this matter had already been dealt with.”

In relation to the second round of crowdfunding, the prosecution asked in which country the crowdfunding was conducted. Chan said he was not sure but believed it was the UK, and was also unsure whose account received the funds.

10:05 Prosecution Questions on G20 Crowdfunding Ad Payments

Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang began by querying Chan Tsz-wah about the “G20” crowdfunding campaign for newspaper advertisements, previously noting that Jimmy Lai and Mark Simon’s side had advanced approximately 1.5 million in ad fees. The prosecution asked whether the debt had been repaid. Chan confirmed it had, with Andy Li returning the funds, which were deposited into the “Chartwell” company account.

Chan recounted issues during the third round of crowdfunding. Mark Simon had complained, “We hadn’t received the money back from the first crowdfunding, yet we were already being asked to advance more.” Chan then checked with Li, who confirmed that he had indeed made the repayment. However, Chan later found out that while Li had deposited the repayment into the “Chartwell” account, Mark Simon was under the impression that the funds had “gone back to Canada.”

10:00 Court Session Begins

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