Jimmy Lai trial discloses his close connections with US political figures
Published: Jan 08, 2024 08:40 PM
Jimmy Lai Photo:VCG

Jimmy Lai Photo:VCG

The trial of Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital and three Apple Daily companies and who has been charged with colluding with foreign forces, entered its seventh day on Monday when the prosecution began reading a 61-page statement of admitted facts detailing the police's discovery of email communications on Lai's phone with his assistant Mark Simon, former US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, and former vice chief of staff of the US Army Jack Keane,  among others.

Judging by its content, it appears to be strong evidence of Lai's collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, some legal experts said. 

"One has to question whether it is necessary for a media businessman to frequently interact with US defense department personnel or political figures," Fu Kin-chi, director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and vice-president of the Hong Kong Basic Law Education Association, told the Global Times on Monday. 

This raises suspicions about whether they have used Next Digital or Apple Daily to engage in subversive activities against the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government or to incite and advocate for "color revolutions" and other crimes, Fu said, noting that the prosecution will summon witnesses to further testify before the court. 

Other US figures in Lai's email communications include Christian Whiton, special advisor at the US State Department; Raymond Burghardt, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan; and Wall Street Journal editor William McGurn, according to the trial record. 

"Regarding the content presented in the court trial, Lai's phone and email communications were predominantly with individuals associated with US national security," Louis Chen, a member of the Election Committee and general secretary of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Generally, it is challenging for an ordinary person to gain access to such US national security-related figures, let alone engage in such close and frequent interactions and meetings, he said. 

"I trust in the professionalism of Hong Kong's judges, who will undoubtedly handle the case fairly and impartially," Chen said, noting that based on publicly available information, it can be anticipated that Lai's connections with foreign entities are very close and it's anticipated that foreign countries will continue to closely monitor this case.

The defense will then request to play all relevant footage in court, a process anticipated to last six days.

The prosecution earlier mentioned that during the anti-extradition law amendment bill protests in July 2019, Lai met with then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the US, requesting US sanctions against Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, which was reported by Apple Daily. 

In October 2019, after meeting with then US house speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lai instructed Chan Pui-man, the former deputy president of Apple Daily and one of the defendants, to interview Lai. The prosecution also pointed out that in mid-2020, before the enactment of the National Security Law (NSL) for Hong Kong, Lai, following the suggestion of Whiton at the time, proposed the addition of an English version of Apple Daily news to increase support from overseas readers.

The prosecutor had also presented 161 articles involved in the case, of which 31 were published after the implementation of the NSL for Hong Kong.