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Day 88: June 4, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 88 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Lai’s Health Improved and The Trial Continues

Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital, along with three related companies of Apple Daily, is charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other offenses. The trial entered its 88th day on Tuesday (4th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), where the prosecution continued to play interview clips of Lai.

When the trial opened on Monday, the defense reported that Jimmy Lai was trembling and feeling unwell, leading the judge to postpone the case until Tuesday. On Tuesday, Lai, wearing a white jacket, entered the defendant’s dock and greeted friends and family. As the session began, senior barrister Robert Pang Yiu-hung, representing the defense, noted that Lai’s health had improved and he could continue attending the hearing. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping reminded that if Lai still felt unwell, he could notify the court.

The case is being heard by designated National Security Law judges Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang of the High Court. Representing the prosecution are 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 barrister from New Zealand with the right to practice in Hong Kong.

16:21 Court adjourns

Prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang stated that after playing the clips, the prosecution still needs to read the acknowledged facts, and anticipates concluding the prosecution’s case by Thursday.

14:32 The prosecution plays an interview program featuring Lai and Rogers, urging the UK to fulfill its responsibilities to Hong Kong

The prosecution began playing clips that Lai did not participate in, primarily links to video clips sent to Lai’s WhatsApp by Ben Rogers, the head of “Hong Kong Watch,” ranging from 36 seconds to several minutes. The clips show Rogers speaking at protest events and his interview dialogues.

Rogers spoke at a petition event in the UK involving Hongkongers, urging the British Prime Minister to fulfill the UK’s responsibilities towards Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, citing China’s clear violation of the agreement and the UK’s consequent obligation to act. This is especially pertinent since both houses of the US Congress passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” and the UK should also demonstrate its responsibility towards Hong Kong.

Rogers specifically mentioned that after the sovereignty transfer of Hong Kong in 1997, he lived in Hong Kong for five years. He never imagined that the police would use rubber bullets and tear gas against peaceful protesters, or that there would be attacks and arrests targeting medical personnel and journalists, who were not demonstrators but were trying to assist them and report the news. Rogers also called on the public to speak out for Hong Kong.

12:10 Court adjourns

11:10 Lai stated in the program: Developing media business in Taiwan can protect Hong Kong’s Apple Daily.

In court, a conversation between Lai and American priest Robert Sirico on June 18, 2020, was played, where Lai discussed his experiences after arriving in Hong Kong as a youth. Lai mentioned that he worked in a factory, diligently self-studied English, and later, when a German manager came to oversee the products, Lai’s basic English skills led to him being assigned to host the German, who eventually provided Lai with other job opportunities, promoting him to a sales position in the factory, and later sending him to work in New York. Lai also mentioned his support for the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and his written condemnation of then-Chinese Premier Li Peng.

Lai further mentioned his decision to develop media business in Taiwan, hoping it would offer protection for Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, reasoning that if the Chinese Communist regime wanted to suppress him, they would have to consider his influence in Taiwan, as the CCP also seeks to regain control over Taiwan.

Regarding the situation in Hong Kong, Lai pointed out that after the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the regime tried to control Hong Kong’s elections and disqualify Legislative Council members. With the impending implementation of the National Security Law, Lai noted that the regime could arbitrarily accuse individuals of incitement and subversion, undermining Hong Kong’s rule of law and jeopardizing its status as an international financial center.

When asked about his arrests, Lai mentioned he had already been arrested three times, with at least three to four cases pending, and was almost certain to face imprisonment. He was arrested for illegal assembly, and the police massively arrested 15 people for the same, aiming to intimidate the public from protesting. Lai also mentioned that then-US President Trump threatened to punish China in response to the COVID-19 issue, a move Lai regarded as very good but believed that the most crucial demand should be for the CCP to provide freedom of speech to its people. If Dr. Li Wenliang, who first discovered the virus, had been able to inform the public, the spread of the epidemic could have been prevented.

After this segment was played, the prosecution, led by Jennifer Tsui Sin-chi , indicated that the next clips to be played would not involve Lai but were extracted from applications like WhatsApp on Lai’s mobile phone, which Lai owned or knew existed. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang questioned the relevance of Lai owning media clips to the case. The prosecution argued that these could demonstrate Lai’s contacts and communication background.

11:07 Court session begins

Jimmy Lai, dressed in a white jacket, entered the defendant’s dock, greeted friends and family, and also spoke quietly with the correctional officers. As the court session opened, the defense’s senior barrister, Robert Pang Yiu-hung, noted that Lai’s health had improved and he could continue attending the hearing. Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping reminded that if Lai still felt unwell, he could inform the court as needed.

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