Hong Kong court begins second day of activist publisher Jimmy Lai’s trial

Hong Kong Court Begins Second Day Of Activist Publisher Jimmy Lai’s Trial
People queue to enter the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, where activist publisher Jimmy Lai’s trial is taking place, in Hong Kong, © Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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By Kanis Leung, Associated Press

The national security trial of Hong Kong’s famous activist publisher Jimmy Lai has entered its second day, with judges expected to rule by the end of the week on his lawyers’ bid to throw out a sedition charge that has been increasingly used to target dissidents.

Lai, 76, was arrested in August 2020 during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following massive protests in 2019.


He faces a possible life sentence if convicted under a national security law imposed by Beijing.

He was charged with colluding with foreign forces to endanger national security and conspiring with others to put out seditious publications.

His landmark trial — tied to the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily that Lai founded — is widely seen as a trial for press freedom and a test for judicial independence in the former British colony, which was promised to have its western-style civil liberties remain intact for 50 years after returning to Chinese rule in 1997.



After Lai walked into the courtroom on Tuesday, he smiled and waved to his supporters just as he did the day before.

He also subtly blew a kiss to the public gallery.


A supporter chanted: “Hang in there.”

Before opening statements, the judge heard arguments from both sides about whether the prosecution had passed the time limit in charging Lai for sedition.

The law requires the prosecution of sedition charges to begin within six months after an alleged offence was committed.

Robert Pang, one of Lai’s lawyers, argued the prosecutors had laid the charge too late for the alleged conspiracy that ran between April 2019 and June 2021.


Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai (Vincent Yu/AP)

But prosecutor Anthony Chau said the time limit should be set based on when the alleged conspiracy — involving at least 160 articles — actually ended.

The judges, approved by the government to oversee the proceedings, said they will make a decision on Friday.


The trial is expected to last about 80 days without a jury.

British minister for the Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan said on Monday the UK would continue to press for consular access to Lai, a British citizen.

The city’s prison authorities have repeatedly refused that request, she said.

“China considers anyone of Chinese heritage born in China to be a Chinese national,” she said.

Lai’s prosecution has drawn criticism from the US and United Kingdom.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated calls for Lai’s release.

“We have deep concerns about the deterioration in protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong and that includes the rule of law,” he said on Monday.

Beijing has dismissed criticisms from western governments.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Monday the US and UK made irresponsible remarks that go against international law and the basic norms of international relations.

Hong Kong leader John Lee said he was confident in the city’s judicial system and in the professionalism of its courts.

Mr Lee said some people, particularly representatives of foreign governments, tried to exert pressure in an effort to influence the court presiding over Lai’s case.

He said such action violates the spirit of rule of law.

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