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NEWSLETTER: Witness list slashed as Jimmy Lai’s sham trial continues

Updated: Jan 30

Top News - Jimmy Lai’s Trial Update

On Monday (8 January) as the trial resumed, it emerged that witness testimonies had been reduced from 31 last week and to 14 today. Witness testimonies were already slashed from 60 last week.  


Does the slashed witness list reflect official recognition that the trial is not going well? Attempts to paint British activists and politicians as part of Lai’s conspiracy have backfired. The bungled prosecution has focused attention on Hong Kong. Now, Hong Kong and its legal system are on trial. 


The prosecution’s case has simply shown Lai’s willingness to spend his own money and build a network of international support to push Hong Kong freedom and democracy. 


The founder of Apple Daily appeared before a panel of three handpicked national security judges as prosecutors cited email records between Lai and former US officials, including Paul Wolfowitz and Jack Keane.  


The prosecution presented a 61-page document containing facts admitted by Lai, who pleaded not guilty. The admitted facts also covered communications among former senior Apple Daily executives.  


As the trial continued on Tuesday (9 Jan) Government prosecutor Ivan Cheung spent much of the court session reading a statement by computer forensics expert Chow Kam-pui. 


Chow's report focused on explaining the basic functions of social media platforms, including Telegram, WhatsApp, Signal, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, used by Lai and his alleged co-conspirators. 


Specific attention was given to Lai's Twitter activity, where he tagged overseas activists and politicians and shared links to Apple Daily's English articles. 


Last week 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 16 January. Stay tuned for updates on this developing issue.

Hong Kong

The mother of Frances Hui, a Hong Kong democracy activist working for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation), was held for questioning by Hong Kong police. It came a week after an arrest warrant and HK$1 million bounty was issued for Hui in December 2023.  


Hui was the first Hong Konger to gain asylum in the United States after participating in the 2019 and 2020 pro-democracy protests. The move follows a pattern of Hong Kong police pressuring the families of pro-democracy activists challenging the authorities. The CFHK Foundation condemned the repression, urging clear responses from the US and British governments. 


A Hong Kong man has been sentenced to three months in jail for wearing a T-shirt with "seditious" slogans, including "Free Hong Kong" and "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times," were deemed able to incite secession under the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020.  


Rocky Tuan, the Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has resigned amid months of attacks by pro-Beijing newspapers and legislators. Tuan, who faced criticism for supporting CUHK students during protests in 2019, announced his resignation in a letter to the university council. 

US-China Relations

China has asserted it will "never compromise" on the Taiwan issue during its first military talks with the US since 2021. China urged the US to stop arming Taiwan and take its concerns seriously. The talks come just before Taiwan’s presidential election. The military talks resumed following a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in November. 


Beijing has sanctioned 5 US defence companies over arms sales to Taiwan. The move comes just weeks after the US State Department approved a $300-million arms package to strengthen Taipei’s joint battle command and control system, prompting Beijing to say it would take unspecified “countermeasures” against the companies involved. 

UK-Hong Kong Relations

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak slammed the trial of UK citizen Jimmy Lai as politically motivated, asserting that Lai is a "champion of free speech,” in his first public mention of the former Apple Daily owner’s name. Sunak's comments drew criticism from the Hong Kong government, which deemed it interference with legal procedures. Sunak emphasised the UK's commitment to stand up for Hong Kong residents and hold China to its international obligations. 


Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss has urged Foreign Secretary David Cameron, to make an "urgent and unequivocal statement of support" for British citizens named as co-conspirators in the trial of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai. The court was given a list of people named as “co-conspirators” on trumped up charges of "collusion with foreign forces" with Jimmy Lai that included Luke de Pulford, Executive Director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), Bill Browder, founder of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign, and Benedict Rogers, founder of Hong Kong Watch


China has detained the head of an overseas consulting firm accused of spying for the UK's MI6 intelligence service. The individual, surnamed Huang, allegedly provided the UK with state secrets and intelligence. The case comes amid Beijing's continued scrutiny of the consulting sector, which has been targeted in an anti-espionage crackdown over the past year.  

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