Jimmy Lai’s colleague reveals text messages calling for US strike on ‘weak Xi regime’

Former Apple Daily employee says his boss advised him to include the sentence ‘kicking China when it’s down’ in report

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 12 March 2024 11:58 GMT
Related: Jimmy Lai’s son slams British government for failing to denounce China

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Louise Thomas

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China critic Jimmy Lai allegedly told his former associate that it was the "perfect timing" for the US-led western alliance to "target" Chinese president Xi Jinping's "weakness", a court in Hong Kong 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.

Yeung Ching-kee, a former Apple Daily editorial writer who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy with foreign forces, testified against his former boss on Monday.

Mr Yeung told the handpicked judges on day 42 of the trial that Mr Lai's "radical" stance was common knowledge, which turned stronger in October 2018 following then-US vice president Mike Pence's speech on the shift of American foreign policy towards China.

"A table flip," Mr Lai told his former employee in an alleged text message, the court was told.

Mr Yeung alleged that Mr Lai believed there was a clear shift in US policy towards China: “He grasped the change in this situation.”

The prosecution revealed an alleged text message correspondence between the media tycoon and Mr Yeung from 5 October 2018, where they discussed Mr Pence's speech.

“Just listened to Pence’s speech. It’s anti-CCP [Chinese Communist Party]," Mr Lai allegedly replied to Mr Yeung.

"The US leading the West and Japan to readjust their policy towards China is more obvious than ever.

"This targets Xi's [Jinping] current weakness, the timing is perfect! It’s kicking China when it’s down," Mr Lai allegedly said.

Mr Yeung said his former boss advised him to include the sentence "kicking China when it's down" in his report.

He alleged that Mr Lai's stance was reflected in the newspaper's coverage, with news reports always mentioning "take to the streets", encouraging the readers to protest.

“‘Take to the streets’ today, ‘take to the streets’ tomorrow… [you’d] always see it,” Mr Yeung told the court.

Mr Yeung is one of the six former Apple Daily staff to plead guilty in November 2022 to conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country.

Mr Lai’s closely monitored trial at the West Kowloon Court is expected to last nearly 80 days and well into March. 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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