Former World Leaders Demand to Testify in Jimmy Lai's Hong Kong Trial

Former politicians from nine countries, including Iain Duncan Smith and Gen Nakatani, seek to testify in the trial of imprisoned Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai. Lai faces life imprisonment on charges of conspiring to collude with foreign forces and publish seditious materials under Hong Kong's national security law.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Former World Leaders Demand to Testify in Jimmy Lai's Hong Kong Trial

Former World Leaders Demand to Testify in Jimmy Lai's Hong Kong Trial

Former politicians from nine countries, including Iain Duncan Smith and Gen Nakatani, are demanding to testify in the ongoing trial of imprisoned Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai. The politicians cite over 50 mentions of their names in evidence presented in the case, which has sparked concerns over judicial independence and the impact of Hong Kong's national security law.

Why this matters: The trial of Jimmy Lai has far-reaching implications for press freedom and human rights in Hong Kong, and the involvement of former world leaders highlights the international community's concern over the erosion of these values. The outcome of this trial may set a precedent for future cases under the national security law, potentially chilling free speech and dissent in the region.

Lai, the 76-year-old founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, is the highest-profile figure facing prosecution under the Beijing-imposed national security law. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiring to collude with foreign forces and one count of conspiring to publish seditious materials. If convicted, Lai faces the possibility of life imprisonment.

The trial, which began on December 18, 2023, has heard testimonies from six prosecution witnesses, including former Apple Daily staff who have pleaded guilty to foreign collusion charges. These witnesses have alleged that Lai orchestrated a global campaign to pressure the international community, particularly the United States, to take action against mainland China and Hong Kong.

One witness, paralegal Wayland Chan, claimed that Lai was prepared to provide "all kinds of help" to pro-democracy publicity campaigns and had agreed to lend up to HK$5 million (S$870,000) to a group of anonymous activists. The prosecution also alleges that Lai's firms made advance payments of HK$1.5 million for advertisements in foreign newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Guardian.

As the trial progresses, Lai's legal team plans to call at least five police officers to testify and play 35 hours of an interview show hosted by Lai in court. The case, initially expected to conclude by mid-May, is now likely to extend into June.

The trial has drawn international attention, with diplomats and civil society groups viewing it as a key test of Hong Kong's judicial independence. Gregory May, the United States' Consul General in Hong Kong, has called for the release of Lai and other political detainees, prompting condemnation from China's foreign ministry office in the city.

The national security law, imposed by Beijing in June 2020, has led to the prosecution of over 150 people, with more than 70 convictions to date. The demand by former world leaders to testify in Lai's trial underscores the growing international concern over the erosion of press freedom and human rights in Hong Kong under the law.

Key Takeaways

  • Former politicians from 9 countries want to testify in Jimmy Lai's trial, citing 50+ mentions of their names in evidence.
  • Lai faces life imprisonment for conspiring to collude with foreign forces and publishing seditious materials.
  • The trial has far-reaching implications for press freedom and human rights in Hong Kong.
  • Over 150 people have been prosecuted under Hong Kong's national security law, with 70+ convictions.
  • The international community is concerned about the erosion of judicial independence and human rights in Hong Kong.