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Day 81: May 22, 2024

The Witness: Live Update: Day 81 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – Lai in Program: “Life’s Meaning Is Not About Oneself”

Founder of Next Digital, Jimmy Lai, and three related Apple Daily companies face charges of “conspiring with foreign forces” and others. The trial continues on its 81st day, Wednesday, 22nd, at the West Kowloon Court (acting as the High Court), featuring the playback of interviews with Jimmy Lai and complete episodes of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.”

In the program, Lai mentioned that while many activists had left Hong Kong, no one could blame them, yet he chose not to leave, emphasizing that life’s meaning extends beyond oneself to more significant issues. As long as he believes he is doing the right thing, he will continue his efforts. In a promotional video from 2020, he discussed how Apple Daily staff should work with safety, conscience, and social responsibility under the National Security Law, remarking that his potential imprisonment would not significantly impact Apple Daily’s operations, though he hoped that Cheung Kim-hung would not be jailed.

The case is presided over by Judges appointed under the National Security Law, including Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. The prosecution team includes Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Prosecutor 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, who is qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

16:29 Court Adjourns

14:33 Lai in Program States: “Separation of Powers as Vital as Oxygen in Hong Kong”

The prosecution continued playing an episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” from September 10, 2020, featuring Ben Rogers, head of “Hong Kong Watch,” discussing religious issues and more. Lai described the deeply entrenched system of separation of powers in Hong Kong as essential as oxygen—rarely mentioned by Hongkongers but critically important. Lai also believed that international attention is crucial for Hong Kong’s safety; the more the global community focuses on Hong Kong, the safer it becomes.

An audience member asked Lai whether he thinks the National Security Law targets former Secretary-General of Demosistō Joshua Wong or other activists. Lai was unsure but noted that the law’s provisions are vague and broad, akin to executive orders, allowing authorities to apply the law for political convenience at any time.

12:55 Court Adjourns

12:10 Lai Expresses Fear in Show, Describes Hong Kong as a “Police State”

Continuing the playback from September 3, 2020, of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” which discussed issues related to Taiwan. During a Q&A segment, Lai was asked whether he felt hopeful or fearful about Hong Kong’s future. He openly expressed his fear, describing Hong Kong as no longer governed by the rule of law, questioning how it could maintain its status as an international financial center. He stated that Hong Kong has become a “police state.”

11:25 Court Adjourns

11:10 Lai Urges Staff to Work with Conscience in Promotional Video

The prosecution played a promotional video from 2020, in which Jimmy Lai mentioned, “Operating media under the National Security Law is almost impossible,” and he advised his staff to “look after your own safety, your conscience, and fulfill your social responsibility in this job.” He also noted that him being in jail wouldn’t significantly affect Apple Daily’s operations, but expressed hope that “Cheung Kim-hung shouldn’t be jailed, or even Royston Chow or Wong Wai-keung, we really need them.”

Lai emphasized, “I believe we have a responsibility to the citizens. No matter how tough or dangerous, we must keep probing and trying, to ensure that the voice of the people remains heard.” He added that he has no regrets, “I will continue no matter how hard it is. At the end, when you live for a purpose and do the right thing, when you feel it’s meaningful, you won’t have regrets.”

10:10 Lai on His Show: “Life’s Meaning Isn’t Just About Oneself”

During the airing of the August 27, 2020 episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” Jimmy Lai discussed the impact of police arrests under the National Security Law, noting it would destroy Hong Kong’s rule of law, truth, and freedom of speech. He remarked that the Hong Kong police, once Asia’s finest, had been degraded by Beijing’s intervention into a force no different from China’s public security, turning them into political tools.

Lai also mentioned that what sets Hong Kong apart from China is not democracy from Britain but the rule of law, freedoms of assembly, speech, and religion provided to Hong Kong, which the locals consider second nature. When these are infringed upon, the instinctual response of Hongkongers is to resist.

During the show, Frances Hui, an activist now wanted by the National Security and living overseas, called in to discuss the struggles journalists face in expressing personal opinions, revealing some had quit their jobs to run for legislative positions. Hui asked Lai if he had faced similar struggles.

Lai responded that many involved in the social movement had recently left Hong Kong and no one could blame them or demand they become martyrs. However, he would not leave, emphasizing that life’s meaning extends beyond oneself to more significant issues. As long as he believes he is doing the right thing, he will continue because they are part of human history.

Hui asked if, as a journalist, one could still express personal opinions. Lai affirmed that one must always express sincere thoughts and speak the truth, regardless of the content written. Hui also inquired about the future of media in Hong Kong. Lai described the risks journalists in Hong Kong face but underscored the importance and value of their work in disseminating the truth and discerning right from wrong.

Court resumed at 10:07.

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