Pro-Democracy Activist Jimmy Lai Insisted on ‘Fighting Till the End’ After National Security Law, Court Hears

‘Absolutely insane that Hong Kong is now a place where a piece arguing *AGAINST* violence is somehow evidence of national security offences.’

The case of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, underwent its 64th day of trial on April 23 in West Kowloon Court of Hong Kong.

Chan Tsz-wah, a legal assistant and the fifth “accomplice witness,” told the court that before the Hong Kong National Security Law was implemented in 2020, he advised Mr. Lai to prioritize his personal safety and leave. However, the latter refused, replying that he was “prepared to fight till the end.”

Mr. Lai, an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has been incarcerated since December 2020 following his arrest during a sweeping clampdown on the city’s pro-democracy activists under a national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong four years ago.

The 76-year-old is one of the most high-profile figures to be charged under the draconian national security law, which criminalizes anything the CCP considers secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country.

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces under the national security law, including calling for international sanctions against China and Hong Kong officials, as well as conspiracy to publish seditious publications. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

His case has been denounced by Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, who have criticized the trial as being politically motivated.

Article Against Violence Used as Evidence

According to messages presented by the prosecution, on Jan. 8, 2020, Mr. Lai sent Mr. Chan an Apple Daily article, “Advice from a friend” (now deleted), written by Luke de Pulford, a member of the UK’s Conservative Party Human Rights Committee.

Mr. Pulford, also the founder and Executive Director of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), made several observations in the article, including that the social movement in Hong Kong was not aimed at the international community and that problems would emerge when a leader was absent. He urged the campaigners to better formulate their demands in finding a better way to increase their representation.

Mr. Chan stated that since no one was directing the pro-democracy movement’s “international front” at the time, Mr. Lai hoped to unite it with “the valiant,” giving the entire movement a clear international direction.

He added that the movement was carried out anonymously, making it difficult for international lobbying to be representative. If the movement could gain Mr. Lai’s support, it would be more representative, and overseas officials would be willing to meet with representatives of the “international front.”

The prosecution accused that on April 5, 2020, Mr. Lai forwarded a message to Mr. Chan, mentioning that some U.S. senior officials were very concerned about the violent acts of Hong Kong protesters using explosives.

Furthermore, the prosecution showed messages between the two on May 1, 2020, indicating that Mr. Chan informed Mr. Lai that “all projects are still ongoing, and efforts are being made to contact parties involved.”

Mr. Pulford found his article being used as evidence in the trial ridiculous.

“Absolutely insane that Hong Kong is now a place where a piece arguing *AGAINST* violence is somehow evidence of national security offences,” reads a post by him on the social media platform X.

‘Prepared to Fight Till the End’

Message records showed that on May 21, 2020, about a month before the National Security Law was implemented, Mr. Chan sent a message to Mr. Lai expressing concerns about his safety.

Mr. Chan testified in court that at the time, Mr. Lai was encouraging different groups to resist the Hong Kong authorities, so he believed that if the Hong Kong authorities were to implement the National Security Law, Mr. Lai would be the first to be arrested.

Mr. Lai replied in the message, “Don’t worry about personal safety. Come out to participate in the struggle, fight for freedom, and be prepared to fight till the end. We may not win, but we must persevere.”

Mr. Chan replied to Mr. Lai: “I can’t turn back; I have an obligation to do my best to preserve strength. I will never give up easily. If none of you can persist, I will be the last one to stay.”

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, looks on as he leaves the Court of Final Appeal by prison van, in Hong Kong, on Feb. 1, 2021. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, looks on as he leaves the Court of Final Appeal by prison van, in Hong Kong, on Feb. 1, 2021. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Mr. Chan stated that back then, while Mr. Lai believed in continuing the struggle, he believed that before the National Security Law took effect, figures like Mr. Lai and Mark Simon, Mr. Lai’s right-hand man who used to work for U.S. naval intelligence, should leave Hong Kong, considering that they had made significant contributions and were irreplaceable on the “international front.”

In comparison, his own role was merely to relay messages and could be easily replaced so he could be the last person to leave.

Mr. Chan, 29, holds a master’s degree in Chinese law and began working as a legal assistant in Hong Kong in 2018. He was accused of assisting Andy Li Yu-hin, another pro-democracy activist, to flee to Taiwan. Both were charged in July 2020 with Jimmy Lai, Mark Simon, and others with “conspiracy to collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.”

The trial continues on April 24.

Dorothy Li contributed to this report.


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