Top News - Jimmy Lai’s Trial Update
On Wednesday (17 January) as the National Security Trial of Jimmy Lai resumed, it emerged that the first witness for the prosecution had testified against the former Apple Daily owner.
The first prosecution witness, Cheung Kim-hung, was heard by the courtroom. He accused Lai of instructing him to "use Apple Daily to call people to take to the streets, to demonstrate, and to pressure the government".
Several other former Apple Daily employees have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces and were also summoned as witnesses this week.
On Wednesday The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation President and former Next Digital Director, Mark Clifford issued a statement regarding his former Apple Daily colleagues testifying against Jimmy Lai in which he called for the immediate release of Lai and others held under the National Security Law.
He said he did not “feel anger but immense sorrow” at Cheung Kim-hung’s testimony, and lamented that “Kim-hung and five colleagues have been held as hostages almost three years, since authorities forced Apple Daily to shut in mid-2021. They have pled guilty but remain behind bars, denied bail, so that they can be used as bit players in the ongoing show trial against Jimmy Lai.”
Earlier this month Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty to conspiring to collude with foreign forces and publishing allegedly seditious materials and the prosecution began by calling Jimmy Lai a "radical political figure" and a "mastermind", accusing him of using his media businesses "as a platform to pursue his political agenda” and of orchestrating a conspiracy.
The trial is expected to continue on 23 January. Stay tuned for updates on this developing issue.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee urged journalists in the city to unite and share positive stories about Hong Kong to counter what he described as ‘slander’ from Western media. He claimed that politicians and media outlets from the West are spreading lies and false narratives, portraying Hong Kong as lacking freedom. This comes amid a decline in global press freedom rankings for Hong Kong since the implementation of Beijing's national security law in 2020, leading to the closure of pro-democracy news outlets.
A 35-year-old man named Tsang Kwok-hei has been arrested by Hong Kong national security police for allegedly violating the colonial-era sedition law. The arrest is related to posts on the online forum LIHKG, where Tsang is accused of repeatedly publishing content with "seditious intention," promoting hatred towards Beijing and the Hong Kong government, and encouraging disobedience to the law.
Hong Kong's government plans to install 2,000 additional CCTV cameras in public places this year to combat crime, according to Cheuk Wing-hing, deputy chief secretary. Cheuk addressed privacy concerns by stating that many cities worldwide have more surveillance coverage, and the move aims to enhance district governance.
The Hong Kong Arts Development Council (HKADC) has withdrawn support for the annual Hong Kong Drama Awards, organised by the Hong Kong Federation of Drama Societies, citing "inappropriate" arrangements last year. The council also warned the organisers not to breach the law, specifically the national security law. Additionally, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) will not provide a venue for the event this year. The move is seen as part of the government's caution in using public funds and ensuring compliance with the law, including the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.
The parent company of the U.S. battery maker Gotion, Gotion High-Tech, has been revealed to have participated in two Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-backed programs which acquire technology to support the People’s Liberation Army. There is also evidence of CCP influence within Gotion, Inc., including talent recruitment efforts and its listing as a Chinese foreign principal. Gotion, Inc., a subsidiary, plans to build electric vehicle (EV) battery component manufacturing plants in the U.S. with taxpayer subsidies.
US President Joe Biden has reiterated the United States official position that it does not support Taiwan's independence after the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's candidate won the presidential election. However, the US remains a crucial backer and arms supplier for Taiwan, and Biden aims to maintain cross-strait peace. Concerns about potential conflict escalation with Beijing continue, and the Biden administration plans to send an unofficial delegation to Taiwan in support of the new government.
UK and Ireland-China Relations
The Lord Mayor of London, Professor Michael Mainelli, is connected to a consultancy, Z/Yen, sponsored by a Chinese institute led by Ye Xiaowen who is accused of human rights abuses in Tibet. This has raised concerns about Mainelli's links with individuals tied to such abuses, sparking criticism and questions about his fitness for addressing Beijing threats.
Ireland's Taoiseach announced that China will reopen its market to Irish beef exports, following a meeting between the Taoiseach and Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Dublin on Thursday. The reopening of the Chinese market is expected to benefit the Irish food industry, with the export market to China valued at a minimum of €40 million per year. The Taoiseach also mentioned discussing human rights concerns, including issues in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, and the upcoming trial of Jimmy Lai, during the meeting with the Chinese premier, admitting that he had "differing perspectives" with the Chinese government.