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Day 80: May 21, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 80 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Prosecution Calls Social Media Expert for Defense Cross-Examination

Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Media, and three affiliated companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” among other offenses. The trial reached its 80th day on Tuesday (21st) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court). The prosecution had previously started playing complete interview segments and the program “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.” On Tuesday, they called a social media expert witness, Associate Professor Chow Kam-pui from the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Computer Science, for cross-examination by the defense.

The case is being presided over by National Security Law designated judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. 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 Public Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum; Jimmy Lai is represented by senior barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung, barrister Steven Kwan, and Marc Corlett, a King’s Counsel from New Zealand with Hong Kong practice rights.

16:17 Adjournment

15:23 Lai Claims Continuation of Resolve to Alleviate Concerns in Hong Kong

During the airing of the August 18, 2020 episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” with guests Mark Clifford, former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post, and Perry Link, a professor from the United States, Jimmy Lai discussed how the international community views Hong Kong as a lever against Chinese values (they find Hong Kong as a leverage against China’s value), while the pro-China faction insists, “Hong Kong is part of China, and we still adhere to one country, two systems.”

Perry Link responded, noting that it’s not just Hong Kong that’s under pressure but also Uyghurs in Xinjiang and human rights lawyers who have been increasingly suppressed over the last decade. Link remarked, “Jimmy knows this better than anyone,” recalling a story from when Lai was seven years old, his mother was sent to a labor camp, and he had to earn money to support himself and his sisters, “But that, again, is a tiny example of what the Communist Party of China has done to the Chinese people.”

After the interview segment, during the Q&A with readers, one reader asked Lai if he was worried, to which Lai inquired if the reader was in Hong Kong. The reader responded that they were from Australia but had lived in Hong Kong for many years. Lai said if in Hong Kong, one would naturally be worried, but added, “What we should do is to persevere, to let the Hong Kong people not to worry as much,” expressing his commitment to continue fighting and striving.

14:34 Lai Claims Never Felt Humiliated in Handcuffs on His Program

During the the interview on the program “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” dated August 13, 2020, with guest Mike Gonzales, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, Jimmy Lai discussed his arrest by the national security police on August 10. Lai recounted how it was the first time he had been handcuffed and during his detention, he was taken to various police stations. When asked about the support from Hong Kong society, Lai described the strong anger among Hongkongers regarding his arrest, with 200 officers raiding the Next Digital building, infringing on the freedom of speech cherished by the people of Hong Kong. He noted how people queued up at midnight to buy Apple Daily in a show of support, saying, “I am really overwhelmed by the emotion of the city.”

Asked if he had any message for his supporters, Lai said, “No matter the difficulties or hardships, knowing in my heart that I am doing the right thing gives me peace and even happiness. There was not a moment… not a moment when my hands were in handcuffs that I felt miserable or humiliated; I didn’t feel that at all. Especially when I came out and saw so many people supporting us, so many people supporting what we do, I am extremely grateful. What I do is not for any reason other than this place has been so good to me. It is something I owe to this place, it is what I should do because this is my home, the place that has enabled me to have everything I have today. Thank you all, thank you very much.”

12:30 Court Adjourns for Lunch

12:11 Prosecution Continues Playing Interview Clips of Jimmy Lai

The prosecution played a clip from an interview with Jimmy Lai conducted by the Financial Times on August 12, 2020, titled “Arrest of outspoken media boss renews fears of Hong Kong clampdown.” In the interview, Lai discussed his views on the National Security Law, stating, “A Hong Kong without the rule of law will not be a financial center, everything we have will disappear, be it freedom of the press, private property, or religious freedom, because the foundation of Hong Kong is the rule of law and all its societal institutions.”

Lai also mentioned that the only way to ensure his safety or to slow down their takeover of Hong Kong is through international support, especially from the U.S. government, “This is the only lifeline for the people of Hong Kong, for us now.”

12:08 Social Media Expert Witness Completes Testimony

The defense concluded their cross-examination, and prosecutor Jennifer Tsui Sin-chi proceeded with the re-examination. Regarding Chow Kam-pui’s mention of different versions of WhatsApp, the prosecution asked whether the various versions impacted the overall operational opinions about WhatsApp in the report. Chow stated there was no impact and confirmed that the same applies to other platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

After Chow completed his testimony, prosecutor Anthony Chau continued playing interview clips and episodes of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.”

11:26 Recess

10:30 Defense Questions Copy and Paste Feature on WhatsApp

The defense continued to inquire about the copy and paste functionality within WhatsApp. During cross-examination, Chow Kam-pui stated that content could be copied from a phone and pasted into WhatsApp, including content copied from the internet or emails.

The defense then referenced an email sent to Chow by the police on April 18, 2023, requesting him to write an expert report for the case; Chow confirmed he read the email after receiving it. The email also provided details about the charges in the case, guilty pleas from Apple Daily executives, and the guilty pleas of Andy Li and Chan Tsz-wah, although no electronic devices were provided by the police. Chow confirmed this.

Chow recalled that he had received a request from the police on March 13, 2023, which mentioned three communication software platforms, two social media platforms, and a video streaming platform. Given the volume of work required to write the report, he had begun preliminary preparations when he received the request. Chow confirmed that he conducted experiments using a reset phone and that the test results were based on the version he had downloaded at the time. The defense asked whether Chow knew whether the police had seized any electronic evidence when he was writing the report. Chow responded that he had not, stating, “I wasn’t asked to participate in the analysis of the evidence.”

10:10 Defense Inquires about Message Forwarding Feature

Responding to the defense’s request, the prosecution called social media expert Chow Kam-pui, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Hong Kong. Senior Prosecutor Crystal Chan led the questioning. Chow confirmed that he wrote an expert report for the case on May 19, 2023, which discussed social media and communication software.

Defense barrister Ernie Tung cross-examined Chow regarding the messaging app WhatsApp, specifically its message forwarding function. Chow explained that if a message is marked as “forwarded,” it means the sender forwarded it from another message to the recipient. He confirmed that text, images, and voice messages could all be forwarded, including those sent by the user themselves.

The defense further questioned whether a message forwarded by the user themselves would be marked as “forwarded.” Chow stated he had not tested this and could not confirm, but he believed it was possible. Judge Alex Lee then asked what would happen if someone used two phones with different numbers to forward messages between them. Chow explained that in such cases, the system would treat them as two separate users, and the message would be considered forwarded.

10:05 Court Session Begins

The Witness

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