19 May 2023 – A Hong Kong court denied the legal bid from Jimmy Lai’s legal team to overturn the Committee for Safeguarding National Security’s (CSNS) decision to prevent British barrister Timothy Owen from obtaining future visas to Hong Kong and defending British citizen Jimmy Lai.
Mr Lai’s case is the cornerstone of the debate over whether foreign counsel is allowed to participate in National Security Law cases in Hong Kong. In April, the CSNS stated that allowing Mr Owen to defend Mr Lai would likely pose a risk “contrary to the interests of national security”. This followed Hong Kong Director of Immigration and CSNS member Au Ka-wang declaring that the CSNS decision is “final, binding and not subject to judicial review”. This proved true today as Chief Judge of the High Court of Hong Kong Jeremy Poon ruled that “Hong Kong courts do not have jurisdiction over the national security committee’s work”.
At the same time the Hong Kong government barred Jimmy Lai from his choice of lawyer, the CATO Institute awarded Jimmy Lai with the 2023 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. This prestigious award was accepted by Jimmy Lai’s son Sebastien Lai. Sebastien said, “My father is in prison for telling the truth.” The CATO Institute noted: “In prison and denied bail, the outspoken critic of the Chinese government and advocate for democracy faces charges that could keep him in jail for the rest of his life.”
The 75-year-old Mr Lai has been behind bars for 869 days, facing multiple charges under the National Security Law. His National Security Law trial is due to begin in September 2023.
Mark Clifford, President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“It is disgraceful that the Hong Kong government has not only barred Jimmy Lai from choosing his lawyer but has prevented the courts from doing anything about it. There is no due process nor rule of law in Hong Kong today. The Chinese Communist Party has ripped the Basic Law to shreds and continues to crack down on the little freedoms that remain. We will continue to press the case of Jimmy Lai, who is most-deserving of the Milton Freidman Prize for Advancing Liberty, so that my colleague may be freed and media reinstated in Hong Kong.”