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Day 64: April 23, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Jimmy Lai Trial Day 64 Chan Tsz-wah confirmed that Jimmy Lai had stated he was not concerned about his personal safety and was ready to fight to the end for the protest

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three associated companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other allegations. The case resumed its 64th day of trial on Tuesday (23rd) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The fifth accomplice witness, Chan Tsz-wah, continued his testimony on his sixth day under examination by the prosecution.

Chan testified that in May 2020, just before the National People’s Congress announced the details of the Hong Kong National Security Law, he exchanged messages with Lai, advising him to be cautious about his personal safety. Lai replied that he was not concerned about his personal safety and was prepared to fight to the end once he joined the protest, stating, “We may not win, but we must persist.” Chan responded to Lai that he would not give up either, adding, “If you all fall, I will be the last man standing.”

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.

16:25 Court adjourned

16:00 Chan to Andy Li: SWHK needs some kind of transformation under National Security Law

The prosecution mentioned that after the National Security Law (NSL) came into effect in July 2020, Andy Li had communicated with Chan on Signal. Chan stated that at that time, Li asked whether he should stay in Hong Kong or go to the United States to work for a non-governmental organization, specifically under the Executive Director for “Human Rights in China” Sharon Hom. Li also mentioned another option to fully assist Luke de Pulford with IPAC to push for sanctions. Chan responded that IPAC was “very important” and that international lobbying should continue, thus advising Li to keep assisting de Pulford. Li eventually continued his support for de Pulford.

Further quoting Chan’s message to Li on July 23, “I am not sure about the implication of NSL on you. Yet, it does not mean we don’t do anything under the new law,” Chan indicated that since they had called for international sanctions against Hong Kong, there was a risk of violating the NSL.

Chan also mentioned on Signal that “SWHK needs some kind of transformation.” He elaborated in court that decisions on how to utilize resources were often made by a few individuals, which caused dissatisfaction among some members of the Telegram U.S. line group. Chan described SWHK as a group of Hong Kongers who supported the anti-extradition law movement, advocating on Hong Kong issues and wanting to let other Hongkongers know that they “Stand With Hong Kong” and their purpose was to “Fight for Freedom.” Chan noted that SWHK had engaged in global advertising campaigns, organized rallies and marches, written letters to legislators urging them to pay attention to Hong Kong, take action, and also conducted international lobbying, hoping foreign legislators could push for sanctions.

15:47 Chan: The primary election was originally conceived by Jimmy Lai, who did “a lot of groundwork”

The prosecution questioned Chan about messages exchanged with Lai on Signal. In these messages, on July 12, 2020, Chan sent Lai a message saying, “thanks for everything on the primary election. It’s remarkable in our HK history.”

Chan stated that the primary election was related to the Legislative Council elections. When asked why he sent this message to Lai, Chan explained, “I think I’m one of the few people who know that the original idea of the primary election was conceived by Jimmy Lai. And since the primary election was very successful in the end, I sent him this message.” Chan described how Lai mobilized a vast network and media resources to assist with the primary election. Regarding Lai’s network, Chan explained that not everyone agreed with the mechanism of the primary election, but Lai “did a lot of groundwork behind the scenes to finally facilitate the primary election.” As for the specific efforts made by Lai, Chan said he was not clear about the details, but noted that when he met with Lai and Mark Simon, both mentioned specifically, “They would use the media to support political novices in participating in the primary election, making the primary election more legitimate.”

15:30 Chan: Lai says the National Security Law is “all bark and no bite” and will continue to call for sanctions

Chan continued, in addition to the situation at Apple Daily, the National Security Law with Lai. Chan mentioned that he expressed concerns to Lai about the National Security Law, suggesting “I thought we should back down,” meaning “not to advocate for sanctions anymore, basically not to break the law.” However, Lai believed that the National Security Law was “all bark and no bite,” saying “he (Lai) won’t be affected, and then he said he would lead by example, continue to call for sanctions and attention in various media.”

Chan added that at the time Lai also instructed Chan to let other SWHK members continue their efforts in publicity and international lines, and to support the primaries. Chan described that he had explained to Lai that it was difficult to continue with publicity efforts, Lai also mentioned feeling that IPAC was very important, “international support is necessary to be effective.” Chan noted that afterwards Lai also said “he would think about how to help the youth, he was already discussing with the US side.”

The prosecution asked if, during their meeting on June 16 until Chan’s arrest on February 15, 2021, Lai had expressed any changes in his stance regarding the four steps of international advocacy, not to unite the streets, parliament, and international sectors, and not to lobby for international sanctions against Hong Kong and China with Mark Simon, Andy Li, and Finn Lau? Chan consistently responded that there had been no such indications.

Chan confirmed under questioning that after the meeting with Lai on June 16, he had discussed it in July with Mark Simon, who mentioned that Lai had prepared the “Safe Haven Bill” at the Hong Kong Democracy Council to assist young Hong Kong activists. If they became political prisoners, they could live in the United States, so young activists could “rest assured and continue to protest.”

15:15 Chan describes his visit to the Next Digital building to see Lai

Chan recalled that Lai’s driver took him to the Next Digital building, where another staff member led him through the back door into a room in the building. Chan mentioned that Lai explained this procedure was to avoid cameras and also to prevent people from discovering his connections with young activists or exposing Chan’s identity.

Chan described that Lai mentioned the Apple Daily was continuously losing money and needed business support. At that time, there was also a need for substantial funds to operate the English version of Apple Daily, “meant for foreigners to read, though it’s losing money, but actually it’s very valuable to him.” Chan said that Lai mentioned, “If there’s an English version of Apple Daily, it can very directly and quickly provide firsthand information to the ‘under-the-table people’ abroad,” enabling them to make more favorable political judgments for Lai.

Chan continued explaining that these political judgments included, when these ‘under-the-table people’ read the English version of Apple Daily, “they are seeing the Hong Kong described by Apple Daily, or the information provided, thus they would have a predisposed stance,” allowing these individuals to write reports for their governments about whether to impose sanctions or take other actions. At that time, Lai believed that the English version could transform Apple Daily from a local media into an international media, gaining more international influence and attention.

14:59 Chan confirms meeting with Lai at Next Digital building in June 2020

The prosecution began questioning about Luke de Pulford and the “Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China” (IPAC) he co-founded. Chan added that IPAC is an international organization initiated by de Pulford to organize legislators from various countries to address China policy issues. Andy Li had asked Chan whether he should join as an individual or under the group name SWHK. Chan found it difficult to decide and thus sought Mark Simon’s advice. Chan described that Simon supported Li joining IPAC, but joining as an individual would be too high-profile and could potentially alienate other SWHK members. Moreover, after the National Security Law was enacted, it would make Li an easy target, so it was advisable for SWHK to join IPAC as a group. Chan recalled that ultimately the entire SWHK joined IPAC as a group.

The prosecution continued by quoting a message from Chan on June 11, 2020, stating “There are a lot going on,” and expressing his desire to meet with Lai to discuss matters. Chan added in court that these issues included SWHK joining IPAC, and at that time, the atmosphere in Hong Kong was such that the “movement was dying down, and some people were unsure whether to continue or not.” Chan confirmed that he eventually met with Lai at the Next Digital building on June 16.

14:35 Chan confirms that crowdfunding money was used to hire a consultancy firm to contact US congress members

The prosecution questioned Chan about the LiHKG link he sent to Lai on May 28, 2020, titled “【Breaking】After Lam Chau comes the dawn! Lam Chau Team’s ‘Stand With Hong Kong Project’ crowdfunding goes live!” The post was made by the user “I Want Lam Chau,” who Chan confirmed was Finn Lau.

The post included a link to the crowdfunding site and stated, “In May 2020, as the National Security Law looms, but we Hongkongers are ready to Lam Chau.” It listed fundraising goals, with tiers at $800,000 and $1.6 million USD, indicating funds would be used for international lobbying, specifically to urge foreign governments to sanction the Hong Kong government. If the goal exceeded $1.75 million USD, it mentioned establishing Hongkongers/cultural offices worldwide, supporting civil parliaments, among other things. Chan added that Andy Li, inspired early in 2020 by Mark Simon’s mention of renting business offices at Capitol Hill for exhibitions, thought he could promote Hong Kong or democratic activities in various locations, setting up Hong Kong cultural associations. Chan recalled that the campaign ultimately raised about 13 million Hong Kong dollars.

The prosecution continued to inquire whether the mentioned target actions were indeed implemented. Chan confirmed they were, with SWHK’s US line hiring a US consultancy firm using the crowdfunding money to reach out to Democratic congress members to promote sanctions.

12:38 Lunch break

12:25 Lai told Chan that “Trump will impose more stringent sanctions”

On May 28, 2020, Chan sent Lai a link to a document titled “PRC National People’s Congress proposal on Hong Kong National Security Legislation – United States Department of State.” Lai responded, “Just saw it. More draconian sanctions are coming from Trump, hopefully this weekend.”

Chan then sent Lai another link from LiHKG, “【Breaking】After Lam Chau comes the dawn! Lam Chau Team’s ‘ Stand with Hong Kong Project’ crowdfunding goes live!” Lai said, “Will read it later when I have time.” Chan explained in court that the link was related to SWHK’s crowdfunding for the ‘Stand with Hong Kong Project.’ He recalled that at that time, SWHK’s funds were nearly depleted, and Finn Lau was keen on initiating another crowdfunding effort, while Andy Li thought the timing was not right. The two had a phone discussion with Chan about it. Eventually, they decided to add a “diversified SWHK plan” to the crowdfunding terms to allow more flexibility in the use of the funds.

Chan added that past crowdfunding efforts focused on newspaper advertisements, and if this campaign only mentioned “working on the international front,” it might not receive enough support and would be too vague. Additionally, there was significant opposition to international lobbying at the time, so they used the “diversified plan” to adopt various measures to promote sanctions or advocate for economic blockades. Chan mentioned that he sent the link to Lai to report on their activities and expressed concerns that some were opposed to international lobbying, hoping Lai could help with promotion.

12:15 Chan told Lai he would “stay until the end”

Chan replied to Lai, “Martin taught me that ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man.’ There is no turning back for me and I do have a duty to conserve our forces as much as possible. I won’t give up either. If all of you fall, I will be the last man standing. The best is yet to come.” Lai then stated, “That’s why you and your comrades are so important. This is going to be a long war and you are our hope of victory.”

Chan explained that at the time, he believed the responsible thing to do was to send everyone away before the National Security Law took effect, and he should be the last one to leave. “They have done a lot, but I haven’t contributed as much as they have,” he said. The prosecution asked why Chan mentioned the need to “conserve our forces.” Chan explained that, in his role as a messenger, many could replace him, but individuals like Andy Li, Finn Lau, Jimmy Lai, and Mark Simon are irreplaceable on the international front. Lai’s reference to “comrades” meant Chan, along with Finn Lau, Andy Li, and the SWHK team.

11:54 Message shows Lai saying not to worry about personal safety, ready to fight to the end

The prosecution continued to display messages between the two, with Lai sending Chan a link to a Hong Kong 01 article on May 21, 2020, titled “【HK01 Exclusive】The National People’s Congress to announce ‘Hong Kong National Security Law’ tonight, sealing national security loopholes, different from Article 23.” Lai added, “There’s a press conference at 9:45 tonight, details will be known then. The fight is on! You were right!” Chan replied at the time, “Mr. Lai: At this point, it’s hard to reverse the situation, my only concern is for your and Martin’s personal safety and that of your family, please prioritize your personal safety and the survival of your cause. The national law mainly targets overseas and local valiants, advocates of Hong Kong independence, and those inciting the masses, you must be cautious.”

Lai responded, “Let’s not worry about personal security. Once one comes out to join the fight for freedom, one is prepared to fight to the last. We may not win but must persist.”

The prosecution asked why Chan reminded Lai to be cautious of the National Security Law. Chan explained that at the time, he thought Lai was legally at risk because Lai had directed them to push for sanctions, and Lai himself had continually called on various people to oppose the government, “So I thought, if the National Security Law were to target someone, it would be Jimmy Lai first.” The mentioned “cause” referred to the “cause of democracy,” and personal safety meant “whether he might be arrested.” Lai’s reference to “must persist” in the message meant continuing the struggle and pushing for sanctions.

11:15 Court adjourned

11:00 Chan confirms Lai arranged for SWHK to contact Taiwan Apple Daily’s President Chen Yue-shing

On May 21, 2020, Lai forwarded to Chan a message he had sent to Taiwan Apple Daily’s President Chen Yue-shing, stating, “Yue-shing, it’s been a while, how are you? The youth camp of the resistance movement wishes to contact Audrey Tang and the General Association of Chinese Culture. They will come to Taiwan to meet them. Please see if you can arrange it.” Lai also told Chan, “Wayland, please contact Taiwan Apple Daily’s President Yue-shing directly, and I will give him your phone number.”

In court, Chan stated that the “youth camp of the resistance movement” refers to the young members of SWHK. The prosecution asked why Lai arranged for him to meet with the president of Taiwan Apple Daily. Chan explained that at the time, SWHK members were discussing developing the Taiwan line, but were unable to contact Mark Simon, so they directly asked Lai, who also inquired if they wanted to meet with Taiwanese officials, Digital Minister Audrey Tang, and members of the General Association of Chinese Culture. Chan noted that ultimately, they did not meet with the aforementioned individuals.

10:45 Chan: Consensus reached with Finn Lau, Andy Li, and others to act according to Lai’s directions

The prosecution continued displaying their messages, where Chan messaged Lai on May 1, 2020, stating, “All the projects are still ongoing. Working very hard to liaise with different parties.” Lai responded, “I know how creative you guys are, and if you can think of something creative to help us, it’ll have a great response from the people.”

In court, Chan explained that the ‘projects’ mentioned in the message refer to SWHK’s international efforts, such as the US and Japan lines. He wanted to inform Lai, “Everyone is still working hard.” The ‘liaising with different parties’ refers to contacts on the international lines, namely those meeting with foreign officials to push for sanctions. Chan further noted that since he, Finn Lau, Andy Li, and other SWHK members had reached a consensus to follow Lai’s direction, he wanted to update Lai on the situation. Regarding the ‘something creative’ mentioned by Lai in the message, Chan indicated it was likely related to calls for subscribing to Apple Daily, hoping the promotional team could assist in the campaign.

10:30 Chan: Finn Lau may not agree with violence, but will definitely not criticize

The prosecution displayed a message from April 5, 2020, forwarded by Jimmy Lai to Chan Tsz-wah, mentioning a meeting between the message writer and a senior US official who regularly monitors Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs. The message stated, “I think it’s fair to say that the US will continue to try to push back on Beijing, but is wary of being dragged into a clash not of Washington’s choosing. I was told the US is very concerned about new violence from demonstrators, increased threats from bombs/ IEDs.”

Previously, Chan claimed that after reading the message from Lai, he wanted to relay the content to Finn Lau and Andy Li. In court, Chan explained that Lau had already met with Jimmy Lai and was clear about Lai’s international stance, but Lau might not have been fully aware of the US government’s stance, so Chan wanted to inform him of the relevant content. Regarding Lai’s expressed concern about potentially lethal violence against the police, Chan noted that Lai had mentioned that if the ‘valiant faction’ became “disproportionate and disorganized” and increasingly misused violence, it would lose international support. This message precisely concerns this issue, “The US does not want to see increasingly violent incidents in Hong Kong’s anti-extradition law movement.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked Chan, when relaying the message to Lau, did Chan consider the ‘Lam Chau Team’ as part of the ‘valiant faction’? Chan clarified that he did not see the ‘Lam Chau Team’ as the ‘valiant faction,’ but at the time, Lau’s view of the valiant faction was “brothers climbing a mountain, each exerting effort,” sharing a common goal. During the anti-extradition law movement, there were many from different spectrums, some who wanted to use force or radical actions, the ‘valiant faction,’ and others who preferred moderate methods, typically the ‘old pan-democrats.’ Chan continued, even though everyone came from different spectrums, they all strived for the ‘Five Demands,’ so there should not be mutual opposition or attacks, meaning “brothers climbing a mountain, each exerting effort.”

Chan continued, Lau at the time might not have fully agreed with violent actions, but Lau “would definitely not criticize them, nor publicly obstruct them.” Chan hoped that Lau and Li would be aware of the internal stance of the US.

10:10 Chan: “Lai wanted to provide clear direction for the international front.”

The prosecution asked about a WhatsApp conversation between Jimmy Lai and Chan Tsz-wah, in which Lai sent Chan a link to an Apple Daily article on January 8, 2020. The article, titled “Advice from a Friend,” was written by Luke de Pulford, a member of the UK Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission. Lai described it as “a great open letter by Luke de Pulford!” The article outlined five pieces of advice:

“1. Your campaigning isn’t directed at the international community.

2. Leaderlessness is great, but creates a problem of representation.

3. The international community needs to know what you want.

4. Don’t give up.

5. Think big in everything you do, especially those involved in violence.”

When asked if the five points mentioned in the article were related to the meeting with Lai on January 11, 2020, Chan responded that at the time there were opinions that the international front was not “solid,” and that “no one was directing this international front.” Lai wanted to provide a direction for the international front and unite it with the “Laam Chau faction,” “to give the entire movement a clear direction on the international stage.”

Chan further mentioned that anonymity was highly valued in the anti-extradition law movement, making it difficult to have a representative presence in international lobbying. At the time, the “Laam Chau team” and some who had participated in US hearings also faced issues with representation. If everyone could cooperate, along with Jimmy Lai’s endorsements, “they would be representative on the international front, and officials and ‘under-the-table’ people would be willing to meet them.”

10:03 The court session begins

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