January 3, 2024
HONG KONG – Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the alleged mastermind in various national security cases, has colluded with multiple foreign forces to impose sanctions on officials of the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government under the guise of fighting for democracy and freedom, according to evidence provided by the prosecution on Tuesday.
The former media magnate faces three charges under the National Security Law for Hong Kong, including two counts of conspiracy to collude with external forces to endanger national security and one of colluding with external forces to endanger national security. He was also charged with conspiracy to publish seditious publications.
The prosecution pointed out that Apple Daily had total sales of more than 69 million copies as of June 2021, and the company’s total revenue exceeded HK$1.1 billion ($140.8 million) by March 2020
Besides the count of colluding with external forces to endanger national security, Lai denied the remaining three charges on the fourth day of the high-profile 80-day trial, which began on Dec 18.
In his opening statement, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang said that Lai had used Apple Daily to carry out political propaganda during the social unrest in 2019, and conspired with the company’s senior executives to endanger national security, which could show that he is the “mastermind” responsible for the charges.
According to the opening statement, Apple Daily published 161 seditious publications between April 1, 2019, and June 24, 2021, 31 of which were published after the National Security Law came into effect, including those calling for foreign sanctions against the central government and the HKSAR government.
The prosecution pointed out that Apple Daily had total sales of more than 69 million copies as of June 2021, and the company’s total revenue exceeded HK$1.1 billion ($140.8 million) by March 2020.
Additionally, Lai met with a number of foreign officials after June 2019, including former US vice-president Mike Pence and former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, proposing that they impose sanctions on China.
The prosecution presented evidence containing Lai’s messages with former Apple Daily executives, his social media posts, videos of Lai being interviewed by US media organizations. It also revealed a diagram showing Lai’s overseas connections.
Additionally, it listed several individuals who acted as Lai’s alleged “agents” or “intermediaries” that collaborated with him to seek sanctions.
The court is expected to hear testimony from five accomplice witnesses, including three senior executives from Apple Daily, to demonstrate how Lai is alleged to have acted as the mastermind behind the conspiracies.
The court had previously announced that the legal time limit for the prosecution of “conspiracy to publish seditious publications” had not expired, and the defense raised another request for clarification.
Three designated National Security Law judges in charge of the trial adjourned on Tuesday morning for further discussion, and ruled that the original scope of the charge laid by the prosecution was appropriate, and refused the defense’s application for it to be amended.
The maximum penalty for the three national security-related charges faced by Lai is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for the sedition charge is two years’ imprisonment.