2 January 2024 - Today, Hong Kong authorities resumed their National Security Law case against British citizen, Jimmy Lai, the former owner of pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Jimmy Lai plead not guilty to one count of “conspiracy to produce seditious publication” and two counts of “conspiracy to collusion”.
On the fourth day of the trial, the court was also given a list of people named as “co-conspirators” on trumped up charges of "collusion with foreign forces" with Jimmy Lai and named several foreign citizens – including James Cunningham, former U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong, and Chairman of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, Luke de Pulford, Executive Director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), Bill Browder, founder of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, Benedict Rogers, founder of Hong Kong Watch and former Japanese MP Shiori Kanno.
The prosecution began by calling Jimmy Lai a "radical political figure" and a "mastermind" and accused him of using his media businesses "as a platform to pursue his political agenda” and of orchestrating a conspiracy. They also went through a list of what were called Jimmy Lai's "overt acts" of collusion, which included dozens of his news articles, episode of his chat show and hundreds of tweets.
Prosecutors even went as far as to highlight meetings that Jimmy Lai had in 2019 with former US vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo to say that he had "vast foreign and external connections".
In a sign that the Hong Kong government continues to pursue and harass Hong Kongers who speak out against the current Hong Kong authorities, the court also named the exiled, pro-democracy campaigners Finn Lau. This follows a HK$1 million bounty placed on his head in July 2023. Another tranche of bounties and arrest warrants were issued in December 2023 against more overseas Hong Kong dissidents, one of whom, Joey Siu, is a US citizen.
Mark Sabah, Director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said:
“Given that Jimmy Lai is a British citizen, along with Bill Browder and Benedict Rogers, the British Government must step up its efforts to get Jimmy Lai released and to speak out against this harassment of British citizens. This is clearly an attempt to stop people from standing up for Jimmy Lai, to halt Hong Kongers working abroad and shows the sheer anger that the Hong Kong authorities feel that their imposition of the National Security Law has backfired so spectacularly, that they are now lashing out across the world.”
Jonathan Price, Barrister and member of Jimmy Lai’s international legal team said:
“As the Jimmy Lai trial resumes and the substance of the prosecution case against him emerges, the pathetically flimsy nature of these charges is becoming plain for us all to see. Jimmy Lai was no threat to national security. He was a journalist and a publisher who dared to print some home truths that the authorities didn’t like, and a peaceful pro-democracy campaigner, standing up for the people of Hong Kong in the face of increasing Chinese authoritarianism. This show trial should end and he should be immediately released.”