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‘Persecution Not Prosecution’: Hong Kong Court Greenlights Jimmy Lai's Sham Trial

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

30 May 2023 – Today, the High Court of Hong Kong rejected a legal bid from Jimmy Lai to throw out his national security trial, marking yet another milestone in the prosecution of the city’s most prominent political prisoner. This decision follows shortly after the court denied an appeal from Mr Lai’s legal team to allow British barrister Timothy Owen to defend Mr Lai, a British citizen.

Earlier this month, Mr Lai’s lawyer Robert Pang applied to annul the proceedings against Mr Lai, arguing that "there is an apparent bias" in his case and a "lack of transparency" in the appointment of national security judges by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee. Mr Pang also labelled the Hong Kong authorities’ efforts to block Mr Owen from representing Mr Lai as "persecution not prosecution".

The Hong Kong High Court judges dismissed Mr Pang’s challenge. The judges stated that the judges who will determine the fate of Mr Lai were recommended by an "independent advisory body". The judges also declared that there is no evidence that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, which blocked Mr Owen from acting in Mr Lai’s case, was acting in bad faith.

Mr Lai is a 75-year-old husband, father and devout Catholic who has been imprisoned for 860 days. He faces multiple charges under the National Security Law, and his trial is expected to start in September.

Mark Clifford, President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:

"Jimmy Lai has been behind bars for 860 days too long. It is scandalous that the High Court of Hong Kong is claiming that the authorities have shown no bias towards Mr Lai, who is persecuted for his bravery. Let’s remember that Mr Lai is locked up simply because the authorities don’t like his ideas about freedom – ideas that China promised to respect when it took over the former British colony in 1997. The Hong Kong authorities are making a fair trial for Jimmy Lai impossible by appointing handpicked judges, denying his preferred lawyer, and giving unaccountable National Security Law authorities a say in the case. Mr Lai’s ongoing prosecution exposes the emptiness of the Chinese Communist Party’s promises to respect the rule of law in Hong Kong."

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