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

Show your support by using the hashtag #FreeJimmyLai

Day 79: May 20, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 79 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – National Security Officer Continues to Testify

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital, and three associated companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.” The trial reached its 79th day at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court) on Monday. The session began with the national security police continuing their testimony. Immediately upon opening, the defense requested a half-hour adjournment to consult with Jimmy Lai, which the prosecution did not oppose and was granted by the court.

Following an earlier request by the defense to summon four police officers for questioning, defense attorney Steven Kwan later withdrew this request, negating the need to call these officers to testify. The court then began playing clips from interviews Jimmy Lai had given to the media starting in 2020.

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

16:14 Court Adjourns

15:05 Prosecution Plays “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” Segment

During the proceedings, the prosecution played a segment from the July 17, 2020, episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.” In the episode, Lai called on people to become more adaptable and to change their modes of protest, remarking, “We are eggs under a high wall, but our shells are like rubber.” In the August 6 episode, he expressed that his family could leave Hong Kong, but he himself would not leave.

14:49 Jimmy Lai in Interview: Will Stay in Hong Kong to the Last Day or Else “I’d be ashamed of myself”

During a broadcast, footage from a July 1, 2020 interview—just one day after the implementation of the National Security Law—with Fox Business Network, which lasted about 8 minutes, was played. The interview was titled “Hong Kong might not be a financial hub anymore.” Lai mentioned that he would stay in Hong Kong until the last day, stating that leaving would shame himself, tarnish Apple Daily’s reputation, and disrupt the solidarity of the democratic movement. He expressed that if he were fearful, he would be unable to accomplish anything.

When asked about the possibility of being arrested again, Lai noted that he might have to serve time in prison, but he did not know where the boundaries were set by the regime, nor did he know what the regime might do. Since these factors were beyond his control, he chose not to concern himself with them. The hosts concluded, “Jimmy Lai, you are a brave man; keep doing what you’re doing.”

14:41 Jimmy Lai in Interview: Apple Daily Will ‘Certainly Continue’ if He is Jailed

Yin asked what would happen to Apple Daily if Lai were jailed. Lai responded, “It will certainly continue.” Yin noted that while Apple Daily enjoys subscription support from Hongkongers, Taiwan Apple Daily faces challenges in subscription. If Taiwan Apple Daily cannot sustain itself, Lai was asked about his plans, to which he replied, “There are no plans right now, we must keep going.”

Yin further asked if Lai supports Taiwanese independence. Lai said, “Supporting Taiwanese independence is very… very sensitive… and since I’m in media, it’s not good for me to say outright.” However, Lai stated, “Whether it’s Taiwanese independence or not,” Taiwan already has its own government, system, and democracy, “whether you call it independence or not, that is no longer the issue.”

14:34 Clip Shows Jimmy Lai Vowing to Stand with Hongkongers to the End

The prosecution continued playing the video in which Lai declared his commitment to stand with Hongkongers until the very end. Yin questioned the division within the anti-extradition movement, noting that while Lai does not advocate for Hong Kong independence, some students do fly its flag. The pandemic has also exacerbated the separation between Hong Kong and mainland China. Yin asked, “Isn’t this a predicament that you will have to continue dealing with in the movement?” Lai responded, “The young people are localists. They don’t say independence. Those calling for independence are very few. I don’t believe they exceed a few percent of those of us who come out. It’s not many; it’s about being local, about being localists.”

Lai continued, “At first, we were resistant to the localist view, but after going through this entire movement, we’ve grown increasingly sympathetic towards the locals and feel more connected to being Hongkongers than mainlanders. Independence is not possible.” Lai emphasized the need for Hongkongers to unite, using their collective strength to maintain Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedoms, adding, “Hongkongers must fight.”

Jaw asked about the results of the democratic camp in legislative elections. Lai said it’s hard to say, “Now he keeps suppressing us. He’s most afraid that we’ll win a majority in September, but his suppression only makes the people of Hong Kong more resolute… The more he suppresses, the more it benefits us,” noting that even if democrats are elected, they might be disqualified. “If he wants to DQ us, we’ll just have to protest. That’s all we can do.”

Lai noted, “Every minute we’re prepared because, for us, he’s already striking… We don’t know what we’ll do, but giving up is not an option.” Jaw asked if street protests might return once the pandemic eases. Lai affirmed they would, suggesting that during June 4 commemorations, police might not allow gatherings, “But we’ll still go out. We might wear black clothes, each person calling out on their own.”

13:00 Lunch Break

12:56 Jimmy Lai says he doesn’t mind going to jail for the cause

Jaw noted that Lai was arrested twice in February and April 2020 with considerable police force and asked about the purpose. Lai stated it was meant to intimidate Hongkongers from taking to the streets. When asked if he was afraid, Lai responded, “Not afraid, I’ve never been afraid.” Jaw questioned if Lai’s family was scared; Lai replied he wasn’t sure about his children, “Maybe a little scared, but my wife wasn’t afraid, she’s very brave.”

Yin asked about Martin Lee’s arrest, marking a first in Hong Kong’s history, and what message it intended to send. Lai said, “The message is that this time they want to completely resolve Hong Kong’s resistance movement. Xi Jinping’s approach is straightforward; he does things thoroughly and gets the energy from it.” When Jaw questioned if Xi could achieve his goals, Lai responded, “It’s not easy, you see the young people have come out again these days,” pointing out that the Tiananmen commemorations might take different forms of protest, “It doesn’t necessarily need a leader,” with individuals stepping out independently and the police not declaring their actions illegal.

Lai also noted the solidarity among Hongkongers, “And for me personally, if I have to go to jail, I don’t mind. If you come out to protest, if you engage in what they call civil disobedience, you have to be ready to face the legal consequences. I’m prepared to go to jail if it comes to that.”

Jaw mentioned that the US was also concerned about Lai’s arrest. Lai expressed, “We would really like the CIA, I would like the US to influence us, I want the UK and other foreign influences because their support is the only thing that can sustain us. Foreign powers are what we desperately need right now.”

Yin further asked how Lai could appeal to Hong Kong’s public from the courtroom to stand firmly with him. Lai believed the public would stand with him as they are defending Hong Kong’s rule of law, criticizing the Liaison Office’s stance that it is not a government agency and should be able to oversee Hong Kong’s internal affairs. Lai argued this stance had already destroyed Hong Kong’s rule of law.

Jaw also mentioned some describe Lai as “traitor Lai,” to which Lai responded, “I’ve always been against Hong Kong independence… no one is foolish enough to want independence. What we want are the rights granted by our Basic Law.”

12:47 Jimmy Lai describes Apple Daily as a ‘thorn in the side’ of Beijing

Yin Naijing noted that Hong Kong media reported Lai’s arrest was related to personnel changes at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Liaison Office, and Beijing’s adoption of a tougher approach. Lai agreed, stating that Xia Baolong and Luo Huining were appointed as directors of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and the Liaison Office, respectively. “The director of the Liaison Office has become the emperor above,” he said, “coming out to directly oversee Hong Kong’s affairs, which violates the Basic Law.”

Jaw asked if the Liaison Office or the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office could direct prosecutors. Lai responded, “As for the Liaison Office, I don’t know what’s behind it, there must be someone directing them, but who it is I really don’t know.” Jaw mentioned Lai’s arrest by the police on April 18, 2020, questioning if it was a settling of scores, to which Lai agreed, “We have the right to protest, we just need to ask the police if they object.”

Lai also mentioned that Apple Daily has been a ‘thorn in the side’ of Beijing, “For many years we have been anti-communist, an opposition newspaper, they say we are responsible for causing chaos in Hong Kong.” Lai stated that his arrest was not just a strike against him but a warning to other prominent pro-democracy figures, intimidating the majority of moderate Hongkongers from protesting.

He further emphasized, “It’s a big deal when over 200 of us come out, it’s difficult for them to handle… If those of us who are peaceful do not dare to come out, they can easily isolate the more radical factions and deal with them more easily.” Moreover, Lai said his arrest was a strike against Apple Daily, “because ultimately their target is Apple Daily.”

12:07 Prosecution plays Jimmy Lai’s Yahoo TV interview segment

The prosecution played a segment from the “Yahoo TV War of Netizen” program dated May 11, 2020, titled “Jimmy Lai Arrested, Political Storm Re-emerges in Hong Kong.” Jimmy Lai participated via a telephone connection, interviewed by hosts Yin Naijing and Jaw Shau-Kong . Jaw mentioned that Lai was restricted from traveling abroad, preventing him from going to Taiwan. Jaw asked about the impact of this travel restriction, to which Lai responded that he was unable to manage his business in Taiwan or attend international meetings.

Lai commented that although the impact was not significant, “the case itself is so trivial. I just cursed at this person, telling him, ‘If you come after me, I will have someone mess with you too.’ That’s it, and three years later, today, they come and prevent me from leaving the country and require me to report to the police station every week,” adding that he remains innocent, “How could you possibly justify not allowing me to travel?” According to reports, Lai was charged in May 2020 with criminal intimidation of an “Oriental Daily” journalist and participation in an unauthorized assembly on August 31 in Hong Kong Island.

11:37 Break

Court takes a short break as the prosecution prepares to play video segments.

11:20 Defense Withdraws Request to Summon Police Officers for Testimony

Defense attorney Steven Kwan withdrew the request for the prosecution to summon four police officers for questioning. Prosecutor Anthony Chau noted that the defense wanted to question a social media expert witness, Associate Professor Chow Kam-pui from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Hong Kong, but he could not be summoned today. Efforts will be made to arrange for Chow Kam-pui to appear in court tomorrow (21st), followed by the screening of segments from the program “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.”

Kwan mentioned that he hopes to screen segments of the program post-enactment of the National Security Law and a segment from a Taiwanese media interview, with Chau noting that the total length of the segments would be reduced to 25 hours. Judge Alex Lee mentioned that it would take approximately 5 days to screen all the videos. Senior Counsel Robert Pang expressed a desire to make an interim submission and noted that if the defense has a case to present, “it would not require much time,” depending on the prosecution’s questioning.

Pang mentioned that there would be no court sessions on May 30 and 31. Judge Lee indicated that the prosecution also needs to prepare for their submission, expecting both sides to present their oral interim submissions on June 27 and 28. Judge Esther Toh added that if the court rules the evidence admissible, the defense will begin presenting its case in early July. Jon K.H. Wong, representing the three Apple Daily companies, revealed that they do not have a defense case.

11:01 National Security Officer: ‘SD’ Indicates Special Duty, Not Necessarily Covert Operations

After receiving instructions and due to obtaining new information, the defense stated that they had no further questions for the national security officer, Lai Kwok-yung. Prosecutor Anthony Chau mentioned that this information was disclosed following the defense’s request last Friday (17th).

Senior Prosecutor Crystal Chan initiated cross-examination. Regarding Lai Kwok-yung’s police notebook entry from his visit to Cheung Kim-hung on November 11, 2021, Lai explained under questioning that ‘SD’ stands for special duty, and when asked if it referred specifically to duties of the National Security Department, he clarified, “Not really, it’s a very general term used by other departments as well, and doesn’t involve confidential operations. It can also mean leaving the office for other tasks.”

Lai also confirmed that after delivering the judgment to Cheung Kim-hung, he signed and stamped the correctional document to verify his visit. When asked why he conversed with Cheung, Lai responded, “Actually, going in to deliver the verdict was part of police duties. Although he was silent and thoughtful after receiving it, my continued interaction was an extension of my duties and also a humanistic approach, as I needed to assess if there were any adverse conditions he was experiencing in prison, so the conversation continued.”

The prosecution inquired why Lai took another statement in February 2024. Lai said that in January 2024, at the defense’s request, he provided more detailed information about his visits to Cheung but was not asked to include every detail and exact wording.

Lai finished his testimony. 

10:05 Court Adjourned for Half an Hour

As soon as the court session began, the defense requested a half-hour adjournment to seek instructions from Jimmy Lai, which the prosecution did not oppose and was granted by the court.

10:04 Court Session Begins

The Witness

Stand up for Jimmy Lai

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