Court of Final Appeal upholds decision to allow British barrister Tim Owen KC to represent Jimmy Lai in national security case


28th November 2022 – (Hong Kong) Next Digital owner Jimmy Lai and six executives together with 3 companies under the group, are suspected of violating the “Hong Kong National Security Law”. They were accused of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security, and conspiracy to publish, crime of publishing, soliciting for sale, distributing, displaying or copying seditious publications. Among them, Lai and three companies have pleaded not guilty, and the trial has been scheduled for 1st December.

The High Court issued judgment earlier to allow Lai to hire British barrister Tim Owen KC to come to Hong Kong to represent him in defending the case. The Department of Justice (DoJ) later appealed against the decision but was rejected by the Court of Appeal. DoJ subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal. The DoJ pointed out that the only official language of the Hong Kong National Security Law is Chinese, and the English version is for reference only, and that the concept of national security under the law is closely related to the central government and Hong Kong’s social, political environment, and constitution. Lawyers from overseas may not fully understand the unique background of the Central Government and Hong Kong. Considering that Tim Owen’s expertise is not the “Hong Kong National Security Law”, nor is he an expert on crimes endangering national security under local law, he will not be able to bring a unique perspective to the court, what’s more, in this case, there are already senior lawyers with relevant experience involved, and the DoJ considered that the High Court judge had erred earlier.

The Court of Final Appeal finally rejected the application by DoJ today against the ruling to allow British lawyer Timothy Owen KC to defend jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in the upcoming national security trial.  The verdict indicates that DoJ has exhausted all the means to prevent British lawyer Timothy Owen KC from representing Lai. Owen is currently in Hong Kong