25th November 2022 – (Hong Kong) Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily’s 3 related companies are accused of violating the Hong Kong National Security Law. British barrister Timothy Wynn Owen KC was allowed by High Court and Court of Appeal to represent him at the trial, but the Department of Justice (DoJ) raised strong objections and appealed repeatedly, arguing that cases involving national security should not be represented by overseas lawyers. After being rejected by the Court of Appeal earlier, DoJ has applied directly to the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) today (25th). Chief Judge Andrew Cheung, Permanent Judges Roberto Alexandre Vieira Ribeiro and Joseph Paul Fok handled the hearing this morning at around 10am. Timothy Owen appeared in person at the Court of Final Appeal today. After the three judges heard the submissions, they decided to adjourn the verdict until next Monday (28th).
The defendant Jimmy Lai (74 years old), together with 3 related companies to Apple Daily were charged with one count of conspiracy to publish seditious publications and one count of conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. Lai was separately charged with two counts of conspiring with Chan Tsz-wah, Mark Simon, Andy Li and others to collude with foreign forces. The case has been scheduled to start in the High Court in December.
Meanwhile, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, believes that foreign lawyers should not participate in the trial of national security cases. Professor Wong Yuk-shan, deputy to the National People’s Congress and member of the Basic Law Committee, also said that if overseas lawyers fail to fully understand the National Security Law, it will violate the original intent of the legislation, and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will have the opportunity to interpret the law. There are also concerns that foreign lawyers may be exposed to confidentiality issues in handling national security law cases, and that the confidentiality issues may be leaked when they return to foreign countries. Senior Counsel Ronny Tong Ka-wa pointed out that lawyers have a duty of confidentiality, and if they divulge confidential documents, it constitutes contempt of court. He said that if major state secrets are involved, the court, as the most powerful gatekeeper, should handle it appropriately.