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NEWSLETTER: Jimmy Lai trial delayed as Hong Kong asks Beijing to block Lai’s choice of lawyer

Updated: Jan 9

NEWSLETTER: Jimmy Lai trial delayed as Hong Kong asks Beijing to block Lai’s choice of lawyer​​

Welcome to the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation weekly newsletter. ​ Every week, this newsletter will bring you the latest updates and developments concerning freedom in Hong Kong. To subscribe to our newsletter, click here.

Committee News ​ It has been a busy week for the Committee for Freedom in Hong KongFoundation (CFHK Foundation) in the global media. From Cardinal Joseph Zen and Jimmy Lai to the UK’s position on China and the recent protests in China, CFHK Foundation staff spoke out. Following a Hong Kong court charging Cardinal Zen for helping pro-democracy protesters, CFHK Foundation’s Frances Hui told the Hong Kong Free Press how she recalled him as a very gentle and caring figure. “He taught us at a young age, ‘Fret not, for God has his plans.’ That built up my confidence in life. Some of my acquaintances who aren’t religious are moved by his dedication. He could have stepped back, but he stayed true to his words even at such an old age,” she said. Damian Green MP and CFHK Foundation’s Mark Clifford urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly to “grapple with how to respond to China’s increasingly erratic aggression.” In The Times Red Box, they wrote that it is now “vital that democratic countries remain committed to holding China to account, now is the perfect time for Sunak to harden the government’s position on China.” CFHK Foundation’s Tara Joseph told the Financial Times that the appeal from Beijing to block Timothy Owen from defending Jimmy Lai “goes exactly against the grain of what the Hong Kong government preaches about the city’s unique qualities. Hong Kong has always said it was open to international barristers and judges. This just flies in the face of that ideal it espoused.” CFHK Foundation’s Mark Clifford told Japan Forward that Jimmy Lai’s trial “holds little hope for justice” and will become “another marker in the dismantling of the rule of law in Hong Kong.” Jimmy Lai Hong Kong’s top court dismissed an appeal by the government to overturn an earlier court decision allowing a UK barrister to defend pro-democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai in his upcoming national security trial. Bloomberg reported that the Hong Kong Department of Justice sought to ban overseas lawyers from taking part in national security cases, after losing twice in blocking Tim Owen KC from representing Mr Lai. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee then appealed directly to China’s National People’s Congress to block allowing Jimmy Lai to be represented by UK lawyer Tim Owen. Commenting in the National Review, CFHK Foundation’s Mark Clifford stated “After three consecutive Hong Kong court decisions affirming Jimmy Lai’s right to choose his own counsel, John Lee is now asking his masters in Beijing to disregard the high court. His attempt to deny choice of counsel is unprecedented and should remove any doubt that the rule of law in Hong Kong is dead.” On Thursday, the trial was adjourned until the 13th December as Tim Owen’s application for an extension of his work visa was withheld by Hong Kong authorities. The Guardian reported that Owen says he currently has a visa for another case but was still not allowed to travel to Hong Kong to represent Mr Lai. Hong Kong Hong Kong Police were called to the University of Hong Kong (HKU) campus last weekend after students gathered to mourn those killed in a fire in Urumqi, China. Campus security at HKU told police they spotted two “suspicious” men putting up posters, others were spotted holding blank pieces of paper, a symbol of the Chinese protests, reported the Hong Kong Free Press. Protests in China The most significant public display of defiance in recent decades took place in China this week, as protests against President Xi Jinping’s “zero-Covid” strategy broke out. Hundreds of protesters and police clashed in Shanghai, with many holding sheets of paper in a symbolic protest against censorship. Protests then broke out in universities across the country, with students chanting “Democracy, rule of law, and freedom of expression!” reported The Times. BBC journalist Ed Lawrence was beaten and arrested in Shanghai for reporting on the ongoing anti-government protests taking place this week. At the time of his arrest, Lawrence was filming the crowds at the nation’s largest protest in Shanghai at Wulumuqi (Urumqi) Middle Road. After his arrest, Beijing stated Mr Lawrence hadn’t presented his press credentials, but the UK government aren’t taking that as an answer and have summoned the Chinese ambassador for a meeting, reported the BBC. On the recent student protests in China, CFHK Foundation President Mark Clifford told the Independent: “The Foundation and I applaud the bravery of these students and call again on Hong Kong’s universities to reject the authoritarianism advanced by Beijing and to restate their commitment to personal and academic freedoms.” On Thursday, China changed its position on COVID-19 and eased some restrictions, releasing cities from lockdown measures. The BBC reported that China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan announced the country was facing a “new situation and new tasks in epidemic prevention.” China UK Government Departments have been ordered to remove any Chinese-made security cameras over fears they could be open to compromise. Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said a review of security risks led ministers to conclude that they should be banned across Whitehall, reported The Times. The order applies to companies, such as Hikvision, that are subject to compliance with Beijing’s security laws, including the National Security Law. European Council President Charles Michel met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week. According to Reuters, President Xi told President Michel that China will strengthen strategic communication and coordination with the EU and hoped “EU institutions and member states will establish an objective and correct perception of China.”

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