Jimmy Lai aims to cultivate Finn Lau as a ‘political star’, claims to provide HK$100,000 for living expenses

Insert picture: Finn Lau. Background picture: Jimmy Lai.

19th April 2024 – (Hong Kong) The trial of Jimmy Lai, the founder of Next Digital, continued today at the West Kowloon Court, interplaying charges under the Hong Kong National Security Law. Lai, along with three affiliate companies of the media group, faces accusations of conspiring to collude with foreign forces and publishing seditious materials, amongst other allegations.

During the proceedings, a former legal assistant and co-defendant turned prosecution witness, Chan Tsz Wah, provided testimony against Lai. Chan detailed discussions held in Taiwan, revealing Lai’s intentions to promote Finn Lau, a political activist known for his advocacy of the controversial “Lam Chau” protest strategy and his affiliations with pro-democracy movements like Hong Kong Liberty and Stand with Hong Kong.

According to Chan, during a meeting at a villa on Yangmingshan, Taiwan, on January 11, 2020, Lai expressed his desire to turn Lau into a “political star.” He allegedly offered Lau a financial lifeline of £10,000 to support his living expenses, though it was unclear if this was intended as a monthly stipend. Lai reportedly discussed leveraging his political connections to aid Lau’s cause, which included the promotion of sanctions against the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.

Chan’s testimony highlighted Lai’s broader strategy aimed at international lobbying for recognition and pressure, potentially leading to economic sanctions against China. Lai believed in unifying various segments of society – from businessmen and street protesters to legislative bodies – to achieve what he referred to as “Lam Chau,” a term suggesting the collapse of economic and political regimes.

During the meal on the same day, Lai also spoke about learning from the American model to conduct primary elections for the Legislative Council, indicating he had sought quotes from a European company for the software needed for a public poll, describing the cost as “not expensive.”

Finn Lau, however, appeared sceptical about the prospects of “Lam Chau” materializing anytime soon. Despite this, Lai was optimistic, citing historical precedents and suggesting that a rapid escalation could lead to an opportune moment to introduce American-style democracy.

The trial also shed light on Lai’s interactions with other pro-democracy figures, including a dinner with prominent Taiwanese political figures, where discussions about the Taiwanese elections and strategies for Hong Kong’s democratic movements took place. Lai and his associates were portrayed as deeply engaged in efforts to sustain the pro-democracy campaign through international support and strategic planning.

The case has been adjourned and will resume next Tuesday. The charges brought against Lai and his associated companies include one count each of conspiring to print, publish, and distribute seditious publications, and conspiring to collude with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, with an additional separate charge for Lai under the same count.