Jimmy Lai: Risk of further delay to national security law trial
On Friday 18th August 2023, Hong Kong’s High Court indicated that it may adjourn, for a third time, Jimmy Lai’s trial for alleged offences against national security and sedition. The trial, due to begin on Monday 25th September, is at risk of being adjourned to 18th December 2023 on grounds that one of the judges overseeing the trial would not be available as he is still hearing evidence in the trial of 47 opposition figures accused of subversion.
The potential adjournment comes four days after the Court of Appeal of Hong Kong quashed Mr Lai’s conviction for organising a pro-democracy demonstration on 18th August 2019, and reduced his sentence for his peaceful participation in the rally from 12 months to 9 months (a reduction that comes long after Mr Lai completed his sentence in September 2022).
Further adjournment of Mr Lai’s national security and sedition trial would raise serious concerns regarding the delay in proceedings. Mr Lai was arrested for alleged offences under the draconian National Security Law on 10th August 2020, shortly after the law was enacted on 30th June 2020. He has been in prison since December 2020. His trial was originally due to begin on 1st December 2022, was then adjourned to 13th December 2022, and further adjourned to 25th September 2023. The proposed new date for the trial of 18th December 2023 means that Mr Lai, now aged 75, will have already spent 3 years in prison before the trial even commences.
Responding to the risk of further delay to Mr Lai’s trial, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, international counsel, said:
“Today’s developments are deeply concerning. Mr Lai has for decades been targeted by the Hong Kong authorities for his peaceful pro-democracy activities and his journalism, and he has already spent years in prison. A further delay in his National Security Law trial to December 2023 would constitute a year’s delay on the original scheduled trial date, and would be unconscionable. The international community cannot stand by and await “justice to run its course” in Hong Kong when the rule of law lies in tatters and the authorities are doing everything in their power to delay and disrupt these proceedings. Now the UK Government and the international community must step in and take robust, speedy action to ensure Mr Lai is released. This charade should continue no longer.”
Note: The international legal team does not act in the domestic proceedings in Hong Kong.