Jimmy Lai plotted mainland China’s collapse and installation of US-style democracy, says witness

Prosecution witness claims Lai shared anti-China strategy with him in 2020

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 19 April 2024 10:41 BST
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Pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai allegedly tried to trigger mainland China's political and economic collapse, a court in Hong Kong has heard.

Mr Lai, a 76-year-old UK citizen and founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, is facing the prospect of life in prison if found guilty of sedition and collusion charges brought against him under the draconian national security law.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Chan Tsz-wah, a paralegal turned prosecution witness, claimed Mr Lai shared an anti-China strategy with him, which would have paved the path for an American-style democracy.

On Day 63 of the trial, Mr Chan told the handpicked judges of West Kowloon Court: "Jimmy Lai said, ‘according to historical experience, China’s implosion would happen very soon because the government mobilised several resources to monitor citizens’.”

Mr Chan, the fifth prosecution accomplice witness to testify against Mr Lai, continued his testimony on Friday amid fears of coercion.

He claimed that Mr Lai in January 2020 shared a strategy, which the media mogul suggested would have caused China's GDP to fall by 40 per cent.

Mr Lai allegedly shared a four-point plan to steer foreign governments’ China policies in his favour, Mr Chan told the court.

Successful lobbying, appealing to international concerns and seeking condemnations, linking up foreign officials and relaying their ideas to activists and regular contact with political consultants and advisers were part of the alleged four-point strategy, Mr Chan claimed.

He alleged that Mr Lai believed the steps would push foreign nations to trigger sanctions and even "overthrow the Chinese Communist Party in the future”.

Mr Chan earlier on Thursday alleged that the pro-democracy activist had visited Taiwan and met with former Taiwanese legislator and activist Shih Ming-teh in early 2020.

Mr Lai’s closely monitored trial at the West Kowloon Court is expected to last nearly 80 days. The proceedings have been condemned by both the UK and the US as an "attempt to stop the peaceful exercise of [Mr Lai’s] rights to freedom of expression and association".

Experts from the UN have called on China to drop all charges against Mr Lai and release him immediately.

“We are alarmed by the multiple and serious violations of Jimmy Lai’s freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and his right to a fair trial, including the denial of access to a lawyer of his own choosing and the handpicking of judges by the authorities,” the experts added.

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