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Final NEWSLETTER of 2023: Jimmy Lai’s National Security Trial Begins

Updated: Jan 30

Top News – Jimmy Lai’s Trial Update


On Monday, after numerous unjust delays and nearly 1100 days in detention, the National Security Law (NSL) trial of British citizen Jimmy Lai began amid a heavy police presence. Jimmy Lai is facing two charges of “foreign collusion” along with a separate charge of “sedition”. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

 

On Tuesday, Judge Esther Toh, one of the three judges handpicked by the Hong Kong Government to oversee the trial, announced that proceedings would be adjourned until Friday morning, when a verdict on the “sedition” charge relating to over 160 published articles, would be handed down.

 

Under Hong Kong law, the statute of limitations for prosecuting sedition offences is six months. Defence lawyer Robert Pang had argued that the charge ought to be dropped as Apple Daily printed its final edition on 24 June 2021 and the charge would have expired on 24 December. However, the hand-picked judges ruled that the prosecution had filed the charge in time as the information of the “sedition” charge had been laid at the Court on 14 December 2021, ten days prior to the deadline.

 

Today (Friday), the court announced the upholding of a “sedition” charge against Jimmy Lai. Judge Toh told the Court: "We are of the view that the charge is not time-barred. So the application of the defence must fail." Judges did not read out the full reasons why the charge was upheld but said that an explanatory document was available to the press and parties.

 

The trial is expected to continue on 2 January. Stay tuned for updates on this developing issue.

UK Reaction

Ahead of the trial, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron condemned the injustice trial and said: “I urge the Chinese authorities to repeal the National Security Law and end the prosecution of all individuals charged under it. I call on the Hong Kong authorities to end their prosecution and release Jimmy Lai.”

 

On the same day at the British Parliament, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP raised an Urgent Question about the National Security Law (NSL) trial of British citizen Jimmy Lai. Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP affirmed in Parliament that "Jimmy Lai is indeed a British citizen." She further stated that the Government is "unequivocally clear that Jimmy should be released immediately, and the NSL is abhorrent." Catherine West MP, Shadow Foreign Minister, Tim Loughton MP, Fiona Bruce MP, and Alistair Carmichael MP echoed these sentiments, labelling Lai's trial as just a glimpse into the broader spectrum of CCP's human rights abuses, and urging consequences for Beijing's actions.



US Reaction


Matthew Miller, spokesperson for US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken said: “We strongly condemn the National Security Law prosecution of pro-democracy advocate and media owner Jimmy Lai. The trial is a stark example of Beijing and Hong Kong authorities’ attack on the freedoms of press and speech in Hong Kong.”


The Congressional Executive Commission on China in the US Congress, led by Congressman Chris Smith and Senator Jeff Merkley said: “We will continue to demand the unconditional release of Jimmy Lai and all of Hong Kong’s political prisoners and seek ways to raise the diplomatic and reputational costs globally for the Hong Kong and PRC government’s rough dismantling of democratic freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong.”


Canada Reaction


The Senate of Canada unanimously passed a motion calling for the release of Jimmy Lai. The senate motion was preceded by the Canadian House of Commons, which passed an identical motion also unanimously.

 

Canadian Senate calls for the immediate release of Jimmy Lai. Senator Pierre Dalphond, (Progressive Senate Group) who introduced the motion, described Mr Lai as “a hero for democracy in Hong Kong" and a “peaceful man who dared to publish the truth”.


EU Member Country Reaction


Olivier Cadic, a member of the French Senate and the Vice President for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces asked French Minister of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou: “Several countries have called on the Hong Kong authorities to put an end to the prosecution of Jimmy Lai and to free him. What is the position of France?”


Cătălin Teniță, a member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies for the Save Romania Union party, raised the issue of Jimmy Lai's “Stalinist-style trial by the Chinese Communist regime”, whilst holding an image of Lai in the chamber. He slammed the trial as “a mockery of justice,” and pleaded with his colleagues to “stand in solidarity to end this farce”.




Jimmy Lai’s detainment has also been criticised by multiple non-governmental organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House.


The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation condemned the trial and stands firmly with Jimmy Lai. We will continue to speak out against injustice and in favour of free media, democracy and rule of law.




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