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Day 85: May 28, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 85 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Lai in Program Says, “Hong Kong is My Home, Whatever Happens is Fate”

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and Apple Daily, along with three associated companies, face charges of “conspiring to collude with foreign forces.” The trial, now on its 85th day, continues at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court) with the prosecution playing complete episodes of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai.”

In one episode, Lai discusses his childhood smuggling into Hong Kong to work as a child laborer in poverty, yet feeling like he was in heaven due to the freedom, opportunities, and education Hong Kong provided. He describes his efforts as a way of giving back to Hong Kong. Asked why he chooses to stay in Hong Kong despite the risks of arrest, Lai states, “Hong Kong is my home,” emphasizing his commitment to defending his beliefs and continuing the struggle, even with the National Security Law in effect, asserting that nothing will stop him from giving interviews and that whatever happens will be his destiny.

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; representing Lai are Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand-qualified barrister Marc Corlett.

16:01 Court Adjourns

15:15 Lai Interview: “I Expect To Go To Jail , But I Will Never Admit Guilty”

During a December 1, 2020, interview with Fox Business Network, Jimmy Lai mentioned he anticipated further imprisonment but asserted he will never plead guilty, stating, “I will never admit guilty.” 

When asked about the impact of the National Security Law on Hong Kong, Lai explained that Hong Kong’s success was due to the rule of law, freedoms of assembly, and speech, all values inherited from the British colonial period. He emphasized that the National Security Law now supersedes the Basic Law, and with the erosion of the rule of law, Hong Kong could no longer function as an international financial center, as such centers rely on mutual trust.

Further discussions included clips from retired U.S. General Jack Keane. After these were played, Judge Esther Toh noted that Lai did not participate in those particular segments. Judge Alex Lee questioned the relevance of these clips to the case, while prosecutor Anthony Chau suggested they demonstrate Keane’s stance. Judge Susana D’Almada Remedios instructed the prosecution to clarify the connection of these segments to the case during their closing arguments.

4:35 Lai on Live Chat: “Without Resistance, Hong Kong Will Become Another Xinjiang”

During the December 1, 2020, episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” featuring Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Lai discussed the importance of freedom of speech in China, especially during the pandemic. He cited Dr. Li Wenliang, who initially identified the virus, arguing that early dissemination of information could have enabled public precautions and governmental actions to control the outbreak more effectively.

During the Q&A session, an audience member asked if Hong Kong might become just another Chinese city. Lai responded pessimistically, suggesting that unless a miracle occurs and Xi Jinping does not continue as China’s leader, “We’re doomed; there’s no chance to preserve Hong Kong’s unique status,” comparing Hong Kong’s potential fate to that of Xinjiang. He explained that the ethical values of Hong Kongers, which align more with Western values deemed dangerous by China, could pose a significant risk if spread to the mainland.

Lai argued that these Western values are seen as even more dangerous than Islamic or Muslim religious beliefs. Without ongoing resistance, “We won’t just become another Chinese city; we’ll become another Xinjiang, or perhaps face even worse fate.” He also noted the critical role of U.S. leadership in countering China and expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the Biden administration’s multilateral approach towards China.

Additionally, an audience member asked about Carrie Lam, then Chief Executive of Hong Kong, who, like Lai, is a Catholic. Lai wished that Lam would pray more and listen more to God’s words, implying she had not been doing so adequately.

12:40 Lunch Break

11:51 Lai in Live Chat: “The Onset of ‘One Country, One System’ Doesn’t Mean We Should Surrender”

During the continued broadcast of the November 29, 2020, episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai,” featuring New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, an audience member asked Lai about Hong Kong’s impending transition to “One Country, One System” and what remaining value Hong Kong holds. Lai responded that the residual value lies in the cultural awareness and Western values of the Hong Kong people. He emphasized that while not yet fully transitioned to “One Country, One System,” it’s almost certain to happen, but “that doesn’t mean we stop insisting.” It is crucial to uphold the rule of law and freedom, especially as education and media freedom are severely impacted, “One Country, One System is coming,” but it does not mean “we should stand by and let it happen… we must stand our ground to preserve our freedoms and the rule of law.”

Another audience member questioned if it’s possible to rebuild the Hong Kong police force. Lai noted that given the current state of expanded police powers, it seems unlikely to rebuild the force, “The entire police force has grown so powerful that they operate above the law; they can pull anyone into the judicial system.” Changes in the CCP’s oppressive tactics towards Hong Kong would be necessary to alter the police force’s image; otherwise, the situation will only worsen, and the police culture will continue to degrade and become corrupt.

Another viewer asked about the effectiveness of the “yellow economic circle.” Lai believes that as long as Hong Kong continues to be suppressed, the yellow economic circle will persist. Unless Hong Kong is free from oppression, there would be no need to distinguish between “yellow” and “blue” in a free economy; the current “distorted economy” is a creation of the government.

11:06 Break

10:05 Lai on Live Chat: “Hong Kong is My Home, Everything I Do is to Give Back”

In court, the continuation of the November 29, 2020 episode of “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” was played, featuring guests Mark Clifford, former editor-in-chief of the South China Morning Post, and retired American General Jack Keane, focusing on the incoming Biden administration. Lai expressed concern from Hongkongers about Biden’s election due to his perceived softer stance towards China compared to Trump, fearing that Biden might not “speak up or stand out for Hongkongers.” However, according to Jack Keane, the Biden administration places a higher emphasis on human rights issues. Lai stressed that regardless of whether it’s Biden or Trump, the people of Hong Kong must continue to fight.

The broadcast also featured the November 27, 2020 episode with Ben Rogers, head of “Hong Kong Watch.” Lai discussed his childhood experiences of smuggling into Hong Kong at the age of 12 and working as a child laborer. Despite his impoverished conditions, he felt like he was in paradise due to the freedom, opportunities, and education Hong Kong offered him. Building a family here, Lai described his current efforts as merely repaying Hong Kong.

Addressing the social climate at the time, Lai noted that Hong Kong’s protests needed to be flexible and creative, possibly operating in small groups. He emphasized the importance of civil organizations because “strength comes from the people, not the government.” With public support, there is sufficient strength to face fear. Lai also mentioned the critical role of international support, given Hong Kong’s alignment with Western values, naturally garnering support and advocacy for its people.

Rogers asked why Lai, having had numerous opportunities to leave Hong Kong, chose to stay and face the risk of arrest. Lai explained his commitment to standing by his beliefs and continuing the struggle, saying, “It is my home here; how could I leave Hong Kong?” He acknowledged that his opposition to evil and tyranny had often brought him trouble. The greater the difficulties he faces, the more crucial his role becomes in drawing international attention to Hong Kong. Lai noted that even with the implementation of the National Security Law, it would not stop him from giving interviews, accepting whatever comes as his fate.

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