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Day 82: May 23, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 82 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial – Lai States in the Program: “The U.S. is Preparing for China’s Rise with a Tough Stance.” 

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and three associated companies of Apple Daily, faces charges of “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” among others. The trial continued for its 82nd day on Thursday (22nd) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), with the prosecution continuing to play segments of interviews and episodes of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.”

During one of the interview programs, when asked about China’s development over the next 20 years, Lai mentioned that no one knows what the future holds, but the more the Chinese travel abroad and are inspired by tourism, the greater the pressure China will face because “knowledge is power.” He believes that people will use this knowledge to fight for more freedom. He also mentioned that the U.S. takes a tough stance to prepare for China’s rise, noting that China’s heavy reliance on foreign technology means that Western tech sanctions could severely impact China’s economy and development, potentially making Taiwan an Asian tech hub.

The case is 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 Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand King’s Counsel Marc Corlett, who is qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

16:08 Court Adjourns

The prosecution expects to continue playing video segments until next Tuesday (October 28).

15:40 In the program, Jimmy Lai asks Cardinal Joseph Zen: Would you become the first leader of an underground church in Hong Kong?

During the program, Jimmy Lai asked Cardinal Zen, “If the Church in Hong Kong faces pressure to become a patriotic church like in China, would you start an underground church here?” He also stated, “If you are the first leader, I will be the first believer in your parish.”

Cardinal Zen responded, “An underground church cannot have such a leader,” indicating he might lead a small group, but it is impossible to have one leader in an underground church, emphasizing “We should build it together.”

15:06 Prosecution Plays Conversation Segment between Jimmy Lai and Joseph Zen

On October 8, 2020, during an episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” guests included former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post Mark Clifford and Cardinal Joseph Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen noted that people think that the Bishop of Hong Kong needs the blessing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and he would advise the Pope to consider the appointment of the next Bishop of Hong Kong from a religious rather than a political perspective.

Cardinal Zen emphasized that the next bishop does not need to be an “enemy of the CCP” or a “fighter” like him, but he hoped the next bishop would not blindly obey and would defend the rights of the people and the faithful.

Cardinal Zen mentioned that his request to meet Pope Francis in Rome to discuss the next Bishop of Hong Kong was denied. He stated that the Italian consulate allowed him to stay in Rome for 120 hours, so upon arrival, he went to Santa Marta to deliver a letter to the Pope’s secretary. Cardinal Zen described the Pope as very kind, believing that the secretary had received the letter, but after waiting four days in Rome without being granted an audience, he had to return to Hong Kong.

Cardinal Zen continued, noting that the underground church has not received support from the Vatican in recent years and has become weaker. Lai agreed, stating that the underground church appears to have been abandoned by the Vatican and described them as “thrown to the repression and suffering of the CCP.” He believed that the followers of the underground church have not become weaker but “may be physically weaker, yet spiritually stronger.”

Lai commented that the global pandemic and the “evil acts of the CCP” have awakened moral issues, while “the Vatican has abandoned its morality,” questioning the Vatican’s lack of discussion on the Uyghurs, Tibet, Hong Kong, and human rights issues in China. Lai noted Cardinal Zen’s efforts at the age of 88 to travel to Rome to discuss the appointment of the next Bishop of Hong Kong, expressing admiration for his moral stance, “Even though you failed, the fact that at your age, you tried something you knew wouldn’t succeed, shows such morality that we, especially Hong Kongers, really respect you for it.”

14:31 Lai Says CCP Fears Religious Organizations

During the segment “A Conversation with Jimmy Lai at the Napa Institute 2020 Summer Conference,” aired on October 6, 2020, host Fran Mayer interviewed Jimmy Lai. Lai mentioned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is very fearful of religious organizations because, “if you have faith, you can easily organize together and oppose them.”

Lai recalled the last time he was arrested, detained in a holding cell, and sleeping on the floor. He questioned himself, “If I knew I was going to face prison, would I still do the same thing?” He quickly answered himself, “Yes, I would do the same thing because this is the way I am, this is my character, if character is destiny.”

Lai noted that if he were to leave, he would be abandoning not only his destiny but also God and religion, “If I can’t change it, I must accept my faith.”

12:39 Court Adjourns for Lunch

11:53 Lai in Program Hopes for Taiwan’s Active Alignment with US Policy

The prosecution played an episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” from October 1, 2020, featuring guests Mark Clifford, former editor of the South China Morning Post, and American scholar Michael Auslin, discussing U.S. technology sanctions against China. Lai noted that European nations, also heavily reliant on American technology, might emulate the U.S. in imposing technological sanctions on China.

Lai emphasized that technological research is interconnected, and China’s reliance on foreign technology will hinder its ability to advance its own tech research. He predicted that U.S. tech sanctions would have the greatest impact on China, leading to Taiwan becoming the tech hub of Asia. Lai remarked that Taiwan is often very cautious, hesitant to align too closely with the U.S., and expressed hope that the Taiwanese government would actively follow U.S. policies.

He believed that increased U.S. military support to Taiwan was inevitable, and Japan might also increase its military presence there. Lai noted that the world is becoming increasingly cautious about China and has recognized the threats posed by the CCP, leading to the formation of a strong Western alliance.

11:05 Court Adjourns for Break

10:30 Lai in Program States: “US’s Tough Stance Prepares for China’s Rise”

The prosecution played a segment from the September 24, 2020 episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” featuring former editor of the South China Morning Post Mark Clifford and American scholar Thomas Shattuck. Lai discussed how the U.S.’s tough stance is in preparation for China’s ascent, mentioning that Secretary of State Pompeo might visit Taiwan to support Trump’s election campaign. Lai also noted that the Trump administration’s use of technology to curb China’s militaristic rise was not too late a response.

Lai argued that due to China’s heavy reliance on foreign technology, Western tech sanctions could severely impact China’s economy and development, and predicted that Taiwan could emerge as a tech hub in Asia, possibly leading to a decline in China’s tech industry. He described, “Taiwan will become the age here, see the value.”

10:13 Lai in Program States: “Greater Travel by Chinese Citizens Increases Pressure on CCP”

During the “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” episode aired on September 17, 2020, a reader from Toronto, Canada, asked whether China would transition to a political system like Taiwan’s, become a dictatorship like Russia, or remain unchanged over the next 20 years. Jimmy Lai responded that no one knows what the future holds, but noted that as Chinese people travel abroad, they become aware of what the world is like, “They know how people in the free world live, and they have their own souls.”

Lai continued, stating that the more people travel, the more they are inspired by their travels, which could potentially increase the pressure on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He explained that when people feel insecure, the CCP feels compelled to exert a degree of control over them. He emphasized, “In today’s information world, knowledge is power,” allowing people to use that knowledge to fight for more freedom, legal rights, and safety in their lives.

He also described himself as optimistic, “I don’t see China becoming even Russia,” suggesting that Chinese people are starting to recognize their differences with the world, even though no one dares to speak out openly, and anyone who does faces trouble.

10:11 Court Convened

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