Hong Kong: Testimony from tortured witness highlights shocking nature of ongoing national security trial against Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong’s prosecutors are so desperate to convict publisher Jimmy Lai of national security crimes, that they have resorted to testimony from a “witness” who was reportedly tortured and is believed to be forcibly held in a psychiatric institution. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounces this sham trial and emphasises that such testimony cannot be considered reliable evidence.

In Hong Kong’s ongoing national security trial against Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai, who faces life imprisonment for “conspiring to collude with foreign forces,” on 13 March leading prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang called as a witness pro-democracy activist Andy Li, arrested in China in 2020 and who is believed to be forcibly held in a high-security psychiatric institution in Hong Kong. 

Like Jimmy Lai, Li is currently facing life imprisonment in a forthcoming trial under the national security law for allegedly “conspiring to collude with foreign forces.” During his seven-month detention in mainland China, the activist was reportedly tortured.

“Hong Kong’s prosecutors must be desperate to provide convincing evidence against Jimmy Lai, but resorting to testimony from a witness who has been tortured and forcibly held in a psychiatric institution is convincing no one. Such testimony can in no way be considered reliable evidence, and only serves to again highlight the sham nature of this trial. We call again on democracies to step up pressure on Chinese authorities  to release Jimmy Lai and the 11 other press freedom defenders detained in the territory.

Cédric Alviani
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, expressed in January her "deep concern" about the case of Andy Li, and called on Beijing to carry out an investigation "before any evidence is admitted" in Lai’s trial. In a separate statement, Edwards and other UN experts urged the Hong Kong authorities to release Jimmy Lai and drop all charges against him.

Jimmy Lai, founder of the independent newspaper Apple Daily, has been on trial since December 2023 for crimes under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law, imposed by Beijing. Detained since December 2020 in a maximum security jail, he has already been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison on other trumped-up charges.

Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down from 18th place in the span of two decades. China itself ranks 179th out of 180 and is the world's largest jailer of journalists and press freedom defenders, with at least 121 currently detained.

135/ 180
Score : 43.06
172/ 180
Score : 23.36
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