Trial began December 18, 2023. Support Jimmy Lai today.

Show your support by using the hashtag #FreeJimmyLai

Day 77: May 16, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 77 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Judges Rejects Defense’s Request to Recall Cheung Kim-hung

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, along with three associated companies, is charged with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces.” The case proceeded to its 77th day of hearings on Thursday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court).

Previously, the defense sought to recall the former CEO of Next Media, Cheung Kim-hung, to question him about the Slack platform. After closing arguments from both sides, the judge on Thursday rejected the defense’s request, stating that Jimmy Lai, as a member of the Slack chat group, could not have been unaware of the internal communication practices among employees or the existence of the Slack platform. The court also stated its responsibility to protect the rights of both the defense and the prosecution, asserting that refusing the defense’s request would not prevent Lai from receiving a fair trial. Post-recess, at the request of the defense, police officers were summoned.

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. Representing the prosecution are Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum. Representing Jimmy Lai are senior barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung, barrister Steven Kwan, and Marc Corlett, a barrister with practice rights in Hong Kong from New Zealand.

16:07 Court adjourned

15:45 Officer confirms 14 visits to Chan Tsz-wah under cross-examination

The defense questioned Lai about his visits to Chan Tsz-wah, noting that his first visit to the psychiatric treatment center was on August 11, 2022, to which Lai responded “probably”. The defense pointed out that from August to October 2022, Lai visited Chan 11 times; Lai agreed. Regarding the period from August 2022 to November 9, 2022, Lai agreed he had visited Chan 14 times.

The defense asked if during those 14 visits, Chan ever informed Lai that his earlier witness statement was inaccurate. Lai denied this, adding that Chan did not review his statement during their meetings.

15:08 Officer Denies Chatting with Cheung to Persuade Him to Testify

The defense referred to Lai’s duty log, noting that Lai only recorded his arrival at Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institution at 10 AM and the next entry was his return to the office at 4 PM. They questioned why Lai did not record the end time of the conversation. Lai responded, “I didn’t think it was necessary.” The defense mentioned that after arriving at the office, Lai reported to Sergeant 4081 Lau Wing-yuk (transcribed) , saying simply, “Hey, I’m back,” and denied making a detailed report.

The defense asked if Lau Wing-yuk was responsible for keeping records. Lai said, “I believe so, as he wasn’t my direct subordinate, I’m not sure.” They also asked if Lai knew whether Lau was handling Cheung Kim-hung’s case at the time. Lai replied, “I only know his team, not who handles what,” and noted that both he and Lau were part of C1 but in different squads. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Lai was documenting the completion of the entire task, not just the meeting’s end. Lai confirmed this.

The defense questioned how Lai could remember the details after such a long time. Lai explained, “At that time, it felt long. Cheung hadn’t eaten, and I hadn’t had lunch either. I definitely checked the time; it was before 3 PM.” The defense asked why Lai did not record the time the interview ended. Lai replied, “I didn’t think it was necessary, as the correctional institution would have a record of my departure.”

The defense pointed out that Lai and Cheung chatted for over three hours, suggesting Lai wanted to persuade Cheung to become a prosecution witness. Lai disagreed. He also confirmed that the day after his first visit, on November 12, 2021, he and Detective 4315 went to visit Cheung again at Lai Chi Kok, but someone else was visiting Cheung at the time, so Lai waited outside.

The defense asked if Lai was surprised when Cheung expressed a desire to be a prosecution witness during their meeting. Lai said, “Yes,” but disagreed with the defense’s suggestion that he persuaded Cheung to consider it overnight. Lai reiterated, “I didn’t hear about (Cheung’s testimony) from the news, I didn’t deliberately listen to it, nor would it affect my record or memory.”

14:50 Officer Confirms He Was Only Instructed to Deliver Judgment, No Reason for Discussion on Daily Life

The defense pointed out that Lai mentioned in court, “After Cheung Chi-wai read the judgment for 20 to 30 minutes, the two sat in silence for 10 minutes,” and this was not mentioned in Lai’s written statement, his duty log, or the investigation report. Lai agreed. The defense further noted that Lai stated in court, “I asked him if he had anything, if he had anything special,” to which Cheung replied no. Lai then asked again, “Are you sure you have nothing?” Cheung responded, “Nothing.” Then I just asked him, “Shall we just chat?” This part was also not mentioned in his written statement. Lai agreed.

The defense suggested that if Lai remembered this part, it should have been recorded in his witness statement. Lai replied, “Those details weren’t necessary,” and added, “My statement wrote ‘discussed daily life in prison’, which actually covers it all.” The defense asked if discussing daily life in prison with Cheung Kim-hung was instructed by a superior? Lai said, “I didn’t stop Cheung from speaking, I let him talk, it was just a normal conversation.”

The defense stated that Lai mentioned “conversation,” so he participated in speaking? Lai clarified that he was “responding.” The defense probed further, asking what Lai responded with. Lai said, “It was a question and answer session, actually quite detailed conversation, I really don’t remember, it’s been so long, it was about his daily life in prison.” The defense pointed out, the conversation between Lai and Cheung wasn’t related to investigating criminal charges or identification procedures? Lai agreed. The defense described it as more akin to a conversation between friends? Lai responded, “It wasn’t really a friendly conversation.”

The defense asked if Lai agreed that his instructions were only to deliver the judgment, and he had no reason to discuss daily life with Cheung? Lai agreed. The defense also asked, was the conversation part of Lai’s police duties? Lai agreed.

14:31 Defense Questions Officer on Document Transfer: Was It Recorded in the ‘Occurrence Book’?

The defense asked why Lai did not follow superior orders to leave immediately after delivering the judgment. Lai responded, “There was actually nothing special about it.” Regarding Lai’s claim that after Cheung Kim-hung read the judgment for 20 to 30 minutes, the two sat in silence for 10 minutes in the visitation room, the defense inquired about the purpose. Lai said there was none.

Regarding Lai’s statement that the visit ended at 2:45 PM, with Cheung leaving the room first followed by Lai, the defense noted that the usual practice is for the detainee to leave first, followed by the visitor. Lai said, “It was not like that on that day; he left before I did… I only know that after they took him away from the visitor room, the same correctional officer escorted me out through the gate,” stressing that he was unclear about the procedures of the correctional department.

The defense asked whether Lai had informed the correctional staff about any documents for Cheung before he left. Lai said he had not, but the staff had asked Cheung, “Did the police give you anything?” Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked whether Cheung eventually took the judgment with him. Lai responded, “He showed it to the correctional staff, and that’s the document, then the correctional staff took Cheung away from my sight,” agreeing that when he left, the judgment was in Cheung’s possession.

The defense inquired whether Lai and Cheung had signed the ‘occurrence book’ to record the transfer of the judgment. Lai said he signed upon leaving and submitted a ‘gate pass’, but did not notice whether Cheung signed. The defense asked if Lai needed to sign the ‘gate pass’. Lai said, “Not sure, probably not necessary.” The defense then asked if Lai was aware that bringing unauthorized documents into a prison constituted a criminal offense. Lai acknowledged he was aware.

12:55 Court Adjourned for Lunch

12:25 Officer Denies Knowing Content of Cheung Kim-hung’s Testimony Before Writing His Statement**

During cross-examination, Officer Lai stated that his superiors only instructed him to deliver a judgment to Cheung Kim-hung, with no other directions. The defense asked if Lai was interested in the content of the judgment; Lai responded, “No, because I have never investigated him; I do not know him,” disagreeing that his superiors had informed him that Cheung had legal representation and that the judgment had been public the day before.

Lai described the process of receiving the judgment: “At that time, my superior, the Chief Inspector, handed me a folder, saying, ‘Here, take this judgment to Lai Chi Kok for Cheung Kim-hung’.” He described the judgment as being enclosed in an envelope, “a government document bag, the brown ones.” Lai stated that after receiving it, he did not open it, “I went to Lai Chi Kok (Correctional Institution), and it was Cheung Kim-hung who opened it. I told him, ‘Here is the judgment, I’ve brought it for you’,” emphasizing that he never opened the document bag himself.

Judge Lee Wan-tang asked why Lai, a Chief Inspector, did not delegate the delivery of the judgment to a subordinate officer. Lai replied that it was a judgment call by his superior, which he did not question. The defense asked if Lai was the second-in-command of Team C1; Lai disagreed, stating there were other chief inspectors involved, but he could not disclose details as it involved their operational structure. Judge Esther Toh then inquired how this was relevant to the case, and the defense did not pursue further.

The defense pointed out an entry in the officer’s notebook, “1000 Arrive LCK CSD center,” and asked if it took only half an hour to travel from the Hong Kong Island office to Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre. Lai agreed, noting, “I had a driver.” The defense mentioned that police delivery of documents should involve a receipt signed by the recipient; Lai agreed, but noted that Cheung did not sign one at that time. The defense asked if Lai had prepared a receipt; Lai agreed he had not.

The defense suggested that delivering the judgment was an important task, part of a special duty. Lai responded, “I was just following my instructions; I did not judge whether it was that type of work.” The defense asked why Lai did not have Cheung sign a receipt at the time; Lai explained that he had not prepared one, “I have a record in my own notebook, I sincerely believe I delivered it, I left empty-handed, and I trust that Cheung Kim-hung would not say I did not deliver the judgment to him.”

The defense further asked if Lai, during his meeting with Cheung, had inquired whether Cheung’s lawyer had provided him with the judgment; Lai said he had not. The defense pointed out that Lai had recorded his witness statement in February 2024, by which time he was aware of the content of Cheung’s courtroom testimony. Lai disagreed, “I saw it on the news, I did not seek details from colleagues.” Judge Lee asked if Lai was in court when Cheung testified; Lai confirmed he was not, “I only knew he testified, Your Honor, I did not delve into the matter.”

12:02 Defense Inquires About Details in Officer’s Notebook

After the prosecution concluded its main questioning, defense lawyer Steven Kwan began cross-examining the officer. The defense asked whether the officer was aware of Cheung Kim-hung’s bail application at the High Court on November 5, 2021, and whether he was informed of the outcome. The officer stated he did not attend but learned from the news that Cheung was denied bail. The defense questioned if the officer knew in advance about the judgment scheduled for November 9 and 10 before his visit to the Lai Chi Kok Correctional Centre; the officer responded that he was not informed and saw the judgment for the first time during his visit, mentioning that it was handed to him personally by a superior.

The defense inquired how he obtained the judgment. The officer explained, “At that time, I was at the Regional Court for other duties when I was assigned by my supervisor to pick up the judgment from the office.” He was instructed to deliver the judgment to Cheung Kim-hung and then proceeded to Lai Chi Kok Correctional Centre.

The defense showed the officer his notebook from the day he visited Cheung, noting an entry “0915 attend to Crt” that was crossed out. They asked if he actually went to the Regional Court. The officer replied that he did attend court but did not recall for what case, stating it was not for a trial but other matters. Another entry “1630 From Ct by SP instruct by sp, SD Duty” was also crossed out. The officer explained, “I wrote the time wrong, I don’t know why I got it wrong.”

When asked if “SD Duty” referred to National Security, the officer agreed and further explained that he made an error because his superior initially instructed him to handle something related to national security but then immediately said it wasn’t needed, so he deleted the entry. He described it as “a careless mistake, so I deleted it immediately and signed it.”

Regarding the entry “0930 instruct by CIP C1 SD duty,” the officer added that he continued writing “proceed to LCK to deliver the judgment,” stating it was clearly written. The defense questioned whether delivering the judgment was considered a special duty. The officer described it as a general assignment, “The Superintendent told me to go to Lai Chi Kok to deliver the judgment, I describe SD as a general task.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang inquired if all the cases the officer handled at the National Security office were related to national security, and not other types like drug trafficking. The officer agreed. The defense then asked why the officer noted ‘SD.’ The officer replied, “It’s our abbreviation; we usually don’t write anything else.” Regarding the details of his court attendance that day, the officer stated he couldn’t remember the specifics, “It might have involved another department I was in at the time, it wasn’t a case at the National Security office.”

11:52 Officer Describes Visit to Cheung Kim-hung, Notes Cheung Requested Another Visit Due to Lack of Visitors

Lai mentioned that Cheung Kim-hung talked about his daily routine at Lai Chi Kok Correctional Facility, “Because he is in solitary confinement, he usually doesn’t have anyone to talk to.” Cheung also mentioned that after getting up for breakfast, he goes to the rooftop to exercise, “I asked him what kind of exercise he does, and he said he has been practicing a Tai Chi-like exercise called ‘standing pole’ for many years, which I’m not familiar with.”

He continued, stating that Cheung would be drenched after exercising, “Then he told me that he would take a shower, and afterwards, he waits for visitors, usually his girlfriend or religious visits.” Lai mentioned that Cheung revealed he was a Christian, “So he has pastors visiting him. After their visits, he waits for his meal. He also told me about the meals inside, how he orders food from outside, and even shared his food preferences with me.”

The prosecution asked if Cheung made any requests during their meeting or if they discussed the evidence of this case. Lai denied all these. The prosecution asked how the meeting ended. Lai said it was because they “talked too long.” During the conversation, he suggested Cheung eat his meal, “but he responded that he didn’t need to because his food would be kept in his cell, so he could eat later, and we continued talking.”

By 2:45 PM, Lai thought it was “long enough” and suggested pausing their chat, “Then he told me, why don’t you come visit me again tomorrow, because other than his girlfriend and religious visits mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have many visitors.” After leaving the correctional facility, Lai reached his office at 4 PM and recounted the whole event to Chief Inspector Lee Shu-kuen, including Cheung’s request for another visit the next day. Lee listened but did not give any instructions. Lai said that the next day, he visited Cheung Kim-hung at the correctional facility again.

11:35 Prosecution Calls Police Officer to Testify at Defense’s Request

Detective Superintendent from the National Security Department, Officer 54944 Lai Kwok-yung (transcribed), testified in court, questioned by senior prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum. Officer Lai joined the police force in 1994 and has been in charge of this case since July 26, 2020. On the morning of November 11, 2021, at 9:30 AM, he was assigned by his superior, Chief Inspector Lee Shu-kuen, to go to Lai Chi Kok Correctional Facility to deliver a judgment to Cheung Kim-hung. He arrived at the facility at 10:00 AM, registered his personal details, stored his belongings in a locker, and underwent a second registration. The whole process took about 30 minutes, followed by a wait for correctional staff to arrange the meeting.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lai recalled that correctional staff instructed him to wait for the visitation room to be disinfected. He could not immediately meet Cheung because someone else was visiting him, and it was not until 11:00 AM that he saw Cheung. Lai introduced himself and explained that his visit was to deliver the judgment, allowing Cheung to read it on his own, “Because I saw him read it over and over again, taking about 20 to 30 minutes. After he finished, he folded the judgment and then fell silent, looking thoughtful.”

They sat facing each other with a partition between them, “So when he was reading the judgment, we were facing each other without talking,” Lai described a silence that lasted about 10 minutes. Lai broke the silence first, asking Cheung if he had anything on his mind, to which Cheung responded no. Lai continued, “Then I asked him again, are you sure you don’t have anything? He responded ‘No.’ Then I just suggested, why don’t we talk?”

Prosecutor Chan asked why Lai suggested they talk. Lai replied, “To break the silence, no special reason,” and they casually discussed Cheung’s daily life during his detention.

10:54 Break

The prosecution would continue after a brief recess, responding to the defense’s request to call the police officer.

10:38 Judge Refuses Defense Request to Re-summon Cheung Kim-hung

The defense applied to recall the former CEO of Apple Daily, Cheung Kim-hung, to question him about the Slack platform. The parties argued their cases on Tuesday (14th). Today, Judge Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios issued her ruling. She noted that Cheung Kim-hung first mentioned the work platform Slack during his cross-examination by the defense on January 29, 2024. It is undisputed in this case that Slack is a program used internally by Apple Daily employees.

Judge Remedios noted that according to Cheung’s testimony, Jimmy Lai chaired the “lunchbox meetings,” where employees would raise issues on Slack to be discussed later at these meetings, with Cheung responsible for recording key points. It is also undisputed that the prosecution neither possessed nor accessed Slack records. Defense attorney Johnny Ho claimed that the relevant Slack records were accessed by Lai’s daughter logging into Lai’s “Taiwan Apple Daily” email account.

In her ruling, Judge Remedios stated that the defense had been adequately informed by the prosecution before the trial began that it would rely on the defendant’s statements made at the “lunchbox meetings.” Moreover, the prosecution’s opening statements and the testimonies of senior executives like Cheung Kim-hung, Chan Pui-man, and Yeung Ching-kee had mentioned these meetings. The relevant documents had been delivered to the defense by June 2022. Furthermore, on the first day of his testimony, Cheung had mentioned that he was asked by Lai to record key points from the meetings, and Lai himself was a Slack user and participant in the relevant chat groups.

Secondly, Judge Remedios highlighted that the defense had ample opportunity to obtain Slack records before cross-examining Cheung. She added, “it is unfeasible that the defense, or more importantly, Mr. Lai, was not aware of Slack, which was the internal form of work communication of employees in Apple Daily.”

Judge Remedios reiterated that the existence of Slack records was known before the trial and that Lai was a participant in the chat groups. She stated that denying the defense’s request would not prevent Lai from receiving a fair trial. She agreed with the prosecution that judicial fairness applies equally to both parties, and it is the court’s responsibility to protect both. Thus, considering the defense’s request to be clearly unjust, she refused it.

Court session began at 10:35.

The Witness

Stand up for Jimmy Lai

In a democracy, every voice matters. Click below to add your voice and share this message.