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Day 69: May 3, 2024

The Witness: Jimmy Lai’s Trial Day 69 Chan Tsz-wah denies fabricating testimonies in exchange for shorter sentence

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital, along with three related companies of Apple Daily, are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case continued its 69th day of trial on Friday (3rd) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The fifth “accomplice witness,” Chan Tsz-wah, testified for the eleventh day, with the defense conducting the fourth day of cross-examination.

The defense pointed out that many pieces of evidence Chan provided in court over consecutive days had not been mentioned in past written statements or video meetings, questioning whether Chan fabricated testimonies in court to benefit from a reduced sentence. Chan categorically denied these allegations, emphasizing his intent to disclose the facts. The defense completed their cross-examination today, and the prosecution led by Zhou Tianxing began their cross-examination.

The case is presided over by judges designated under the National Security Law: Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. Representing the prosecution are 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 qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

12:36 Court adjourned

11:15 The defense focuses on the scope of the prosecution’s re-examination

The prosecution displayed the transcript of a video meeting from April 28, 2021, after Chan decided to become a witness for the prosecution. The defense expressed concerns about the scope of the re-examination, pointing out that the questioning only addressed the parts of the statement accused of being false. However, Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang believed that the prosecution could inquire why the witness’s mindset changed, leading to changes in the statement, such as his initial claim after his first arrest that Mark Simon had not instructed him on his actions. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang suggested that the prosecution provide the necessary statement paragraphs and a list for questioning, to which the defense agreed.

As the prosecution needed time to prepare the list and a judge had a medical appointment in the afternoon, the case was postponed to continue next Monday (the 6th).

11:43 The prosecution begins re-examination

The prosecution pointed out that during the defense’s questioning, they showed Chan the statements from October 10 and 11, 2020, at which time Chan had not yet become a witness in this case. Chan indicated his intention to become a witness for this case between March and April 2021, and during questioning, he admitted that some of the content in those statements was false. Chan confirmed this.

The prosecution asked why Chan provided false statements at that time. Chan explained, “At that time, I still harbored a wishful thinking that I could clear my association,” adding that he thought he could disassociate himself from Mark Simon, Jimmy Lai, SWHK, Finn Lau, and Andy Li. Chan also mentioned that he thought, “After giving the statement or leaving the police station, Mark Simon could arrange a way for me to leave Hong Kong,” which led him to provide false statements.

11:39 Chan denies fabricating statements to receive a lighter sentence

The defense cited transcripts from Chan’s first arrest in October 2020, in which Chan stated, “It’s purely because I really hate it when some people use lies for their own benefit.” The defense questioned if Chan was doing exactly that by fabricating a series of statements to benefit himself in terms of sentencing? Chan disagreed, saying, “Exactly because I hate it, that’s why I want to speak out the truth.”

The defense announced they had completed their questioning, and the prosecution, led by Anthony Chau Tin-hang, began their cross-examination.

11:30 The defense questions whether Chan gave false testimony in court; Chan denies it.

Regarding the sixth meeting with Jimmy Lai, Chan had previously stated in court that he expressed concerns about the National Security Law to Lai, suggesting that “it should be toned down,” meaning “not to advocate for sanctions anymore.” At that time, he also discussed the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and SWHK with Lai. The defense asked if Chan had mentioned these pieces of evidence in past transcripts. Chan confirmed he had not. The defense also asked if the transcripts showed Chan had mentioned Andy Li to Lai. Chan confirmed he had not.

Regarding discussions with Mark Simon following the enactment of the National Security Law, Chan mentioned that Andy Li was “very stubborn” and did not want to leave Hong Kong, and he discussed IPAC and SWHK with Mark Simon. The defense asked if Chan had found these pieces of evidence in the transcripts. Chan confirmed he had not.

The defense questioned that out of these 14 pieces of evidence, none had been mentioned by Chan in past statements or video meetings, suggesting that these were false and only brought up when Chan was at the witness stand. Chan disagreed.

The defense asked Chan if he then truly remembered all these pieces of evidence. Chan agreed. The defense further pointed out that Chan had admitted he was not someone whose memory becomes fresher over time. Chan responded, “I said it’s not necessarily so.” The defense questioned, but regarding the situation where Chan met with the police about 65 hours after giving his statement, did he remember little about the discussions at that time? Chan disagreed.

11:13 The defense points out discrepancies in the testimony provided by Chan in court, compared to video meetings and written statements.

Previously, the defense noted that during cross-examination, Chan mentioned several new pieces of evidence that were not brought up in video meetings or written statements. The defense then questioned Chan with a series of related evidence. For example, they cited Chan’s discussion about a meeting with Lai in December 2019 during cross-examination. At that time, Chan mentioned that Lai said, “He hopes I understand that he is not against valiant (violent protesters), but he needs to cater to the West.” The defense questioned why this content was not mentioned in Chan’s earlier statements.

In court, Chan stated that in the transcript dated April 28, 2021, he mentioned that “Jimmy Lai doesn’t care whether you promote Hong Kong independence or want to maintain ‘one country, two systems’; the main thing is to let a hundred flowers bloom and to keep up the heat locally in Hong Kong.” The defense then pointed out that there was no mention of Lai’s hope that Chan would understand he was not against valiant acts. Chan confirmed this.

The defense continued to cite a series of evidence, focusing on the fifth meeting with Lai in Taipei. Previously, Chan claimed that during their discussion about his trip to the United States, Finn Lau claimed that they had organized meetings and demonstrations in Germany and Edinburgh. Lau also expressed his willingness to cooperate and agreed with the overall direction, but regarding the ‘Lam Chau team’, he said he needed to discuss with ‘rip’, whom Chan informed Lai was Andy Li. Lau also mentioned that he did not want to engage in ‘parliamentary line’ but would ‘open fire on the international front’. Chan also mentioned during the meeting that Andy Li was working on ‘the Japan line’, “but we encountered problems in reaching the ‘people under the table'”. Chan also said that there were disagreements with local Hong Kong organizations in the SWHK U.S. line, and they hoped Jimmy Lai would mediate.

The defense pointed out that none of the aforementioned evidence was found in previous transcripts. Chan agreed.

11:04 Court session begins

The Witness

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