23rd May 2023 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai recently faced a legal setback after the High Court rejected his application for a judicial review on two matters related to the National Security Law. Lai had sought the court’s ruling on whether the interpretations of the law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) would affect the decision to allow British Queen’s Counsel Tim Owen to represent him in his defence. Additionally, Lai wanted the court to declare that the suggestion by the National Security Committee to deny Owen a visa was an overreach of authority.
The court’s decision has effectively thwarted Lai’s attempts to exploit legal loopholes, thereby putting an end to his litigation strategies. Lai’s efforts to involve overseas organizations in a bid to interfere with the judiciary and pressure judges have also proven fruitless.
The Hong Kong National Security Law, Article 14, states that decisions made by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) National Security Commission are not subject to judicial review. This provision clearly establishes that Hong Kong’s judiciary cannot challenge the Commission’s decisions, which hold absolute authority. Article 12 of the law also states that the Commission is responsible for national security affairs in the Hong Kong SAR and is under the supervision and accountability of the Central People’s Government.
Lai’s application for judicial reviews was based on two absurd arguments. First, he requested the court to declare that the NPCSC‘s interpretation of Articles 14 and 47 of the National Security Law would not affect the court’s decision to approve Owen’s representation. Second, he asked the court to declare that the suggestion by the National Security Committee to deny Owen’s visa was an overreach of authority.
One of the reasons for the NPCSC’s interpretation of the law was to close the loopholes that Lai was trying to exploit by hiring foreign lawyers to handle cases involving national security. The NPCSC’s clarification of responsibilities would undoubtedly apply to Lai’s case. If it did not, it would only leave the door wide open for risks and vulnerabilities in national security.
Lai’s contention that the National Security Committee’s decision was an overreach of authority reveals a lack of understanding of the basic facts. The Committee’s decisions related to the legal system, enforcement mechanisms, and coordination of major initiatives for maintaining national security in the Hong Kong SAR are binding on all institutions, organisations, and individuals, including the executive, legislative, and judicial institutions. Article 14 of the National Security Law states that the work of the Hong Kong SAR National Security Commission should not be interfered with by any other institutions, organisations, or individuals. The suggestion to deny Owen a visa was made according to the law and within the Committee’s legal authority.
These judicial review applications demonstrate that Lai and his legal team have resorted to indiscriminate litigation, disregarding the provisions and legal principles of the National Security Law. Such lawsuits should not be entertained by the courts and should not waste valuable court resources.
However, the High Court’s rejection of Lai’s applications also indicates that the court has a thorough understanding of the National Security Law and recognises the authority of the National Security Committee. With his litigation strategies failing and evidence mounting against him, Lai has no cards left to play. As a result, he has turned to his connections in the U.K. and the U.S. to pressure their governments into interfering with the Hong Kong SAR. However, international politics are driven by interests and power, and Lai, as a loyal servant of Western forces, no longer holds any value or strength. It remains to be seen who would come to the aid of this “spent battery.”
Despite the lack of direct involvement from their superiors, there are still some peripheral political organisations that act as proxies to serve their own interests. For example, RSF, headquartered in France, recently launched a so-called joint petition calling for the release of Jimmy Lai. This is a blatant act of interfering with Hong Kong’s judiciary and further exposes the organisation’s ignorance and bias. Although RSF presents itself as a media organisation, in reality, it is willing to act as a pawn for certain political forces and blatantly trample on the rule of law.
Hong Kong government officials have issued a statement in response to a global call for the release of Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily and a laureate of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Prize. The statement, released just hours after RSF and 116 publishers, editors-in-chief, and senior editors from around the world called for Lai’s release, warns against organisations and individuals who “interfere with the judicial proceedings”.