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Day 89: June 5, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Day 89 of Jimmy Lai’s Trial: Prosecution Continues to Play Clips Found on Lai’s Phone

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” among other crimes. The trial, which resumed on Wednesday (5th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), marked its 89th day.

One of the segments presented was sent by Ben Rogers, head of “Hong Kong Watch,” to Lai via WhatsApp on May 27, 2020. It featured a conversation with Lord David Alton, a member of the UK House of Lords. In the conversation, Lord Alton mentioned that as protesters in Hong Kong adopt more radical methods, he advises against mimicking the enemy’s tactics. He suggested that if the opposition resorts to violent and brutal methods, protesters should maintain a peaceful approach to demonstrate a better moral stance than the Chinese Communist Party. He also warned protesters to be wary of attempts to infiltrate and manipulate their movement.

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. 

15:48 Court adjourns

14:34 Prosecution handles the list of evidence 

After playing the relevant clips and recordings, the evidence list was presented in court. After a recess for discussion, both parties requested a postponement of the case to next Tuesday to handle the translation of the documentary evidence. The prosecution is preparing to complete their case presentation thereafter.

Regarding the mid-trial submissions, the prosecution indicated that only the first defendant, Jimmy Lai, plans to make a mid-trial statement; the other three corporate defendants will not participate. Judge Esther Toh postponed the case to next Tuesday for continuation and scheduled oral mid-trial submissions for July 9th.

12:48 Lunch Break

11:55 Prosecution plays an audio recording sent by Jimmy Lai to his staff, discussing the operational model of the English version.

The prosecution continued by showing a clip of a tweet by then U.S. President Donald Trump, dated August 19, 2020, in which Trump was asked about Jimmy Lai’s arrest. Trump expressed his wishes to convey his blessings to Lai, describing him as a great and brave person, a wonderful gentleman, and commented that the freedom of Hong Kong has been taken away.

Following this, the prosecution played an audio recording where Lai discussed with other staff members the content and operation of the English version of Apple Daily. Lai mentioned that the content of Apple Daily’s English version should differ from that of the South China Morning Post, which he described as ‘big propaganda’ concerning mainland China news. Another staff member added that Apple Daily’s English version should fill the gap left by the monopoly of the South China Morning Post in English news, covering rights news in China, including topics like the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Chinese dissidents, rights lawyers and their families, and issues like the ‘melamine milk scandal’.

Lai emphasized the need to “return to real news,” uncover more news from mainland China, and report on special topics in Hong Kong. Staff suggested covering news related to Hong Kong’s democracy, freedom, and police brutality. Lai mentioned calling on organizations concerned with human rights or democratic freedoms to “send us news” and urged subscriptions to Apple Daily’s English edition, noting that Mark Simon was seeking subscriptions from foreign politicians and officials. It was also suggested to publish “satirical cartoons about mainland China” that are edgier. Lai proposed involving Zunzi, stating “the best cartoons are Zunzi’s,” indicating a need to discuss with him.

After the clips and recording, Senior Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum took over to read further admissions regarding jurisdictions that suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong, including Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Germany, and the USA.

11:11 Break

10:10 Court plays clips extracted from Lai’s phone

Lord Alton said in interview: “Never imitate the methods of the enemy”

The prosecution continued to play clips, indicating that Ben Rogers, head of “Hong Kong Watch,” sent a website link via WhatsApp to Jimmy Lai on May 27, 2020. The content was an interview segment titled “In Conversation with Benedict Rogers,” where Rogers spoke with Lord David Alton, a member of the UK’s House of Lords, discussing the situation in Hong Kong and the UK’s actions.

The discussion included mentions of protesters beginning to adopt more radical methods. Lord Alton emphasized that one should never imitate the enemy’s tactics; if the opposition uses violent and brutal methods, protesters should employ peaceful means to demonstrate a better approach than the Chinese Communist Party’s. Lord Alton also noted that protesters should be wary of individuals attempting to infiltrate and manipulate the movement. He stressed that Hongkongers should maintain their dignity and trust in the rule of law, while other countries must stand in solidarity with Hong Kong.

The prosecution also played a clip sent by Luke de Pulford, a member of the British Conservative Party and founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), in June 2020. The clip was a promotional video for IPAC, featuring members from various countries expressing their views on matters related to China and Hong Kong.

The court session commenced at 10:05.

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