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Day 86: May 29, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 86 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Lai Says Anti-Extradition Law Movement was Hongkongers’ Last War in Interview

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and three associated companies of Apple Daily, faces charges of “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces,” among others. The case continued on its 86th day at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court) on Wednesday, with the prosecution continuing to play full segments of Lai’s interviews and the “Live Chat with Jimmy Lai” program.

A segment from Lai’s interview in July 2019 was played in court, discussing the anti-extradition bill movement. Lai criticized the proposed amendments to the extradition laws as a conspiracy to undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law and freedoms. He warned that if the Chinese Communist Party could arrest anyone at will, Hong Kong’s rule of law would be utterly eroded. He described the anti-extradition bill movement as the “last war” for Hongkongers, referring to the July 1st storming of the Legislative Council, highlighting that the young protesters were disciplined, did not damage relics, and even left money when taking drinks from the legislature, debunking the notion that they were “rioters.” Lai emphasized that the protesters never advocated for riots; it was the CCP’s stripping of freedoms and rule of law that compelled the people to resist.

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 barrister Marc Corlett, who is qualified to practice in Hong Kong. 

16:24 Court Adjourns

14:33 Lai Interview: “Believes Trump Will Keep His Promises and Implement Sanctions on China”

During the continuation of the June 2, 2020 Apple Daily segment, the narration discussed the Tiananmen Square anniversary, stating that Lai founded Apple Daily “to give society one more voice.” Now, not only is the Chinese Communist Party demanding Apple Daily “silence itself,” but the National Security Law also seeks to “extinguish” the candlelight vigils. In the video, Lai affirmed his commitment to attending the vigils, despite the “great disconnect” Hongkongers feel towards Mainland China. He stressed that if Hongkongers have aversions to the National Security Law, they must protest, with the June 4 vigil being one avenue for expression.

Further, a clip from Lai’s May 28, 2020 interview with Bloomberg was played. Lai criticized the impending National Security Law for weakening Hong Kong’s rule of law and jeopardizing its status as an international financial center. He expressed his belief that U.S. President Donald Trump is a “man of his words” who would impose “draconian” sanctions on China in response to the National Security Law.

On June 10, 2020, Lai was interviewed by Radio Free Asia. Asked about his views on the situation in Hong Kong post-implementation of the National Security Law, Lai mentioned the palpable tension among Hongkongers. Popular topics on social media and big data analysis indicated a trend towards emigration, with people concerned about safeguarding their personal assets. Many were preparing to leave, while others chose to stay and resist, hoping to maintain the rule of law and freedom with international support. Lai believed this was not impossible, as China’s situation was not as stable as perceived externally.

Lai emphasized that foreign countries should exert as much pressure on China as possible through sanctions to block China’s authoritarian actions. This could potentially dilute the enforcement of the National Security Law, making it “watered down” and less severe. Thus, securing support from President Trump was crucial. Lai also believed that societies valuing democracy and freedom would not betray Hong Kong, which shares similar values.

12:49  Lunch Break

**11:52 Lai Interview: “I’m 72 years old, I don’t care what happens to me”**

During the prosecution’s session, clips of Jimmy Lai’s interviews from July 15 and August 18, 2019, on Fox News were played. Lai discussed the protest situation in Hong Kong, reaffirming the determination of Hongkongers to resist until their goals are met, and criticized the extradition law for undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law, threatening its status as an international financial center. The reporter noted that two million people had attended the marches. Lai stressed that everyone has a responsibility to fight against dictatorship and highlighted the importance of the United States maintaining its “moral authority” as Hong Kong and the U.S. share the same beliefs.

Another clip from May 26, 2020, also on Fox News, was played, focusing on the then-impending implementation of the National Security Law. Lai described how the law would undoubtedly strip Hong Kong of its rule of law and freedoms, presenting Hongkongers with the choice to stay and fight or to emigrate. He chose to stay. When asked about the impact of the National Security Law, Lai said that the media would no longer be able to operate freely; any content could be accused of incitement or subversion, leading to potential charges, marking an end to the Hong Kong of the past.

The reporter mentioned Lai’s multiple arrests and continued involvement in protests. When asked if he was concerned about his personal safety, Lai responded that he did not consider his personal safety, focusing instead on how to continue the resistance. “I am 72 years old, I don’t care what happens to me,” he stated, emphasizing his disregard for personal consequences.

Lai also suggested that the U.S. could sanction Chinese officials by freezing their accounts and assets, and apply technological sanctions, adding that the U.S. had multiple means to pressure the Chinese government.

11:14 Break

**10:10 Lai Interview: Anti-Extradition Movement as Hongkongers’ Final Battle**

During the prosecution’s presentation, an interview clip from July 10, 2019, was played where Jimmy Lai attended a panel at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in the United States, titled “Protests, Crack Downs, and the Future of Hong Kong: A Conversation with Jimmy Lai.” The discussion centered on the anti-extradition law movement. Lai criticized the extradition bill as a conspiracy to undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law and human rights freedoms. He warned that if the Chinese Communist Party could arbitrarily arrest anyone, Hong Kong’s rule of law would be utterly destroyed.

Lai described how Hongkongers take their freedoms for granted and resist when these freedoms are threatened, labeling the anti-extradition movement as their “last war.” He highlighted the July 1st storming of the Legislative Council, noting the young protesters’ discipline in not damaging relics and even leaving money when taking drinks inside the Council building, saying that they were not ‘rioters.’ Lai emphasized that the protesters never advocated for riots; it was the CCP’s stripping of freedoms and rule of law that compelled the people to resist.

Lai mentioned that America’s “moral authority” is a powerful and significant asset when China seeks to discuss trade agreements, pointing out that China needs the world and the United States more than they need China. He stated that Hong Kong is fighting for the same values as the United States, “It means that we’re fighting your war in your enemy camp,” highlighting the need for American support.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang raised concerns that the interview was conducted in the United States, questioning the jurisdiction over the charges. Prosecutor Anthony Chow Tin-hang confirmed their reliance on the context of the clip and Lai’s state of mind during the discussion.

10:05 Court Session Begins

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