Top News - Jimmy Lai’s Trial Update
On Tuesday (January 23) as the National Security Trial of Jimmy Lai resumed, the first witness for the prosecution continued his testimony against the former Apple Daily owner.
The pro-democracy paper’s former publisher, Cheung Kim-hung, told the courtroom that Jimmy Lai instructed the newspaper to launch a petition urging US sanctions on Chinese officials before the imposition of the national security law by Beijing.
The campaign, named "One Hongkonger One Letter to Save Hong Kong," aimed to invite support from then-US President Donald Trump as the rollout of the harsh law loomed.
Lai's defence argued that the interference sought was through sanctions against Chinese officials relevant to the security law, though the judge cautioned about interpreting the witness's words.
Several other former Apple Daily employees have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit collusion with foreign forces and were also summoned as witnesses last week.
Last week 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 next week.
Hong Kong's top court has reversed the acquittal of pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung, a human rights lawyer and former vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance. The reversal is related to her charge for organising a peaceful Tiananmen Massacre memorial. Chow, who spent over 900 days behind bars and faced multiple sentences, including for the banned 2020 and 2021 vigils, will now face a retrial on charges related to the 2021 vigil. The CFHK Foundation calls for her immediate release, criticising Hong Kong judges for compromising civil liberties and the rule of law.
At the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on China on Tuesday, over 160 countries-including the US- lined up to speak, with numerous delegates raising Beijing's human rights abuses including crackdowns on Tibet, Hong Kong, the genocide of Uyghurs and global transnational repression. Several of the countries that participated including, the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Czechia, urged the repeal of Hong Kong’s National Security Law (NSL).
Chinese music student Xiaolei Wu is facing trial in the US for allegedly harassing a pro-democracy activist from China, at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Wu is charged with cyberstalking and interstate transmissions of threatening communication after threatening the activist, who posted pro-democracy flyers, by making online threats to report her to Chinese law enforcement.
UK and Ireland-China Relations
In the British and Irish Parliaments this week, debates took place on human rights and democracy in Hong Kong and China, including the trial of Jimmy Lai.
On Monday Hong Kong's Secretary of Education, Dr. Choi Yuk-lin, began an official visit to the UK and Finland, despite the UK government acknowledging Hong Kong's National Security Law (NSL) as a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Dr. Choi, known for supporting the NSL, has been criticised for imposing pro-Beijing curricula in Hong Kong schools. Following queries by The CFHK Foundation, she withdrew from her scheduled appearance at the British Educational Training and Technology Show in London.
On Friday the CFHK foundation was disappointed to learn that Dr Choi met with UK Education Minister Damian Hinds, to “discuss the education developments in Hong Kong & the UK”. Former UK Prime Minister and current Foreign Secretary, Lord David Cameron, is considering a trip to China to “engage” on climate change, despite criticism from Conservative backbenchers over human rights abuses. Cameron has sought to change the Foreign Office's approach to China following claims that his attempt to establish a "golden era" in UK-China relations during his premiership made him unsuitable for the role. Critics argue that a visit is unnecessary, citing the aggressive stance of the Chinese government and the need for alternative platforms to address human rights abuses.
China says it sentenced British national Ian Stones to five years in jail in 2022 for spying, following reports of his disappearance in 2018 after decades of work in China. According to China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, the Beijing court upheld the sentence after an appeal in September last year, asserting that the trial was conducted strictly in accordance with the law, and the rights of the prisoner were fully guaranteed.