Taipei, Taiwan – The nationwide safety trial of Jimmy Lai, the jailed 75-year-old media mogul and founding father of the now defunct Apple Day by day newspaper, was supposed to begin subsequent month.
But it surely has now been delayed – once more – till December 18.
Lai has been in custody since December 2020 and faces a number of prices associated to Hong Kong’s democracy motion and protests.
Lai has already been sentenced to greater than 5 and half years over a business lease at Apple Day by day, and faces further prices beneath the nationwide safety regulation (NSL) and sedition regulation, which dates from colonial instances.
Lai was additionally denied his alternative of lawyer – veteran British barrister Timothy Owen – for the NSL trial, which will probably be heard earlier than a panel of three judges accredited by Beijing.
Sebastien Lai, the tycoon’s 28-year-old son spoke to Al Jazeera in Taipei about his father’s scenario and his hopes for the longer term.
Al Jazeera: What are your expectations for the upcoming trial?
Sebastien Lai: I’m optimistic, in a way. Clearly, this can be a present trial. There’s truly no foundation for nationwide safety convictions. There’s no foundation for something that they’ll convict on so far, and he’s been in jail for 3 years. However my expectation is that it’s a chance to see if Hong Kong and the Hong Kong authorities are folks of their phrase, as a result of on the finish of the day, what was taking place may be very apparent to the free world.
They’re principally punishing a writer, a 75-year-old man, for standing up for the freedoms that the Hong Kong state has and that had been additionally promised through the handover. That’s all it’s actually and so they’re utilizing a nationwide safety regulation, and the nationwide safety regulation isn’t retroactive. That’s one thing that they’ve acknowledged very clearly – as soon as it was in place, from that time is what counts. So if we have a look at it even simply on that very stage, on their phrase, then none of those guys needs to be in jail.
I feel there’s a cause why they maintain delaying the trial. There’s a perception that should you’re delaying it, it signifies that you don’t have a really sturdy case. And likewise, extra importantly, they’re actually making an attempt to get it beneath everyone’s radar – that’s why they’re doing it throughout Christmas. That’s my conclusion on my half, but it surely is sensible.
Al Jazeera: How do you are feeling in regards to the authorities’s resolution to dam your father’s alternative of a British lawyer for his nationwide safety trial?
Lai: I’ve no contact with the Hong Kong authorized staff. My contact is with the worldwide authorized staff, and so they’re unbiased of each other. And with the lawyer they supply… it goes to indicate the place the Hong Kong authorized system is now. However extra importantly, I feel it’s only a symptom of a a lot better illness, of a a lot better decay of the entire authorized system.
You may see that in dad getting 12 months for lighting a candle at a Tiananmen Sq. vigil, how lately he was acquitted for organising a protest that 1.7 million confirmed up at, however he had already carried out the sentence.
Both manner, I feel the better level is he served greater than 10 months greater than a yr (referring to the time his father had already spent in jail) for collaborating in a protest with 1.7 million folks, and on one other stage 1.7 million went out and protested [against] the federal government. I feel what’s taking place with the overseas lawyer is unlucky but it surely’s extra of a way of the place the Hong Kong authorized system goes.
Al Jazeera: What can different nations like the UK do?
Lai: The UK has a duty to its residents. My father is a citizen… they’ve a duty to their residents, particularly when they’re being unjustly handled overseas. And there’s additionally a component of Hong Kong has primarily damaged its promise to the UK about 50 years of handover, so there’s additionally that. The UK has to carry Hong Kong accountable, or at the least name Hong Kong out that they’re keen to interrupt the pacts they’ve with different nations on a whim.
Hong Kong is making an attempt to inform the world that they’re open for enterprise and so they wish to be a part of the world once more, and it’s necessary to understand that Hong Kong’s principal profit is it’s a spot the place it’s very near China but it surely had the rule of regulation and a really free authorities system. It was a mannequin of freedom and Hong Kong continues to be making an attempt to inform the world that they’ve that, however they’ll’t do this if they’ve somebody like my dad in jail. They’ll’t say they’ve free press and ship 500 folks to raid a newspaper. It’s important to select one or the opposite. I don’t assume you possibly can deal with the world like they’re silly.
Hong Kong can both present the world that ‘we nonetheless wish to be part of the world financial system’, ‘we nonetheless wish to be open for enterprise’ or they’ll maintain doing this folly, which is principally merciless. My father, and the opposite political prisoners, they’ve already slandered their names and put them in jail. Dad’s been in jail for 3 years and at 75 that’s a very long time. And so I feel at this level it’s simply merciless.
I hope that the UK places my dad’s case ahead each time they negotiate with Hong Kong, they’re vocal about this and inform China and Hong Kong that that is unacceptable behaviour and that it’s not acceptable for China and Hong Kong to step on the freedoms that the UK has, or the free world has.
Al Jazeera: How’s your father doing in jail?
Lai: Sadly I haven’t seen him in additional than three years since I left in 2020. I lately noticed photographs of him. I feel he’s a robust man and I do know that he’s mentally robust, I do know that clearly figuring out you’re doing the proper factor is a good supply of power, his faith is a good supply of power, however at his age he’s the oldest political prisoner in Hong Kong until they attempt to arrest another person.
Al Jazeera: Are you shut with him? Individuals have difficult relationships with their fathers generally.
Lai: I used to be very lucky, I used to be extremely fortunate as a result of by the point that I used to be born, dad was already a bit older. So I’m 28, he’s 75. He was 47 after I was born, so clearly he was nonetheless very busy however we bought to spend so much of time collectively rising up. I feel on the finish of the day, he’s clearly somebody I look as much as enormously due to his actions [and] due to his willingness to face by his phrase.
I noticed movies from the BBC that they confirmed me from the archives and it was him earlier than the handover. These English guys had been interviewing him, and the loopy factor is that is like 30 years in the past and once they ask him, ‘What are they going to do? Are they going to come back after you?’ And he tears up and says, ‘Hong Kong is my dwelling, it’s given me all the things, so I’ll shield it’. And that was 30 years in the past. It’s mind-blowing.
Al Jazeera: How would you describe the Hong Kong of at present in contrast with the one the place you grew up?
Lai: I feel for lots of people Hong Kong was at all times a really hopeful place. It had its points but it surely was at all times a really hopeful place – a spot the place due to the establishments that had been in place … the place if somebody was keen to work actually exhausting they may have a profitable end result. However I feel extra importantly, it was one of many uncommon locations on the earth – a society of Chinese language those that had freedoms moreover common suffrage. It was an experiment in that sense. It was at all times folks leaving mainland China to come back to Hong Kong and never Hong Kong to mainland China. So for me that was at all times a supply of pleasure, the freedoms that we had, the hope that we had it’s what made Hong Kong so dynamic.
My impression of Hong Kong Kong now – and I haven’t been for 3 years – is that by and huge that freedom is gone. It’s a spot the place the federal government has blurred the traces of the regulation a lot that most individuals would somewhat keep away from it. I feel that aspect of not being fearful of what you say or fearful of what you do, I feel that’s central to why Hong Kong was profitable.
Al Jazeera: The place do you see Hong Kong in 5 years?
Lai: I feel it is dependent upon if the folks working Hong Kong realise it’s true that these freedoms are one strategy to [stand out] as a result of ultimately, the federal government needs to be accountable for what they are saying, they are going to be judged on their actions. I hope and I don’t know if that would be the case that Hong Kong will realise the price of giving up these freedoms is just too excessive and reinstate them. If that’s the case there’s a risk of it being a world metropolis once more. I feel the place it’s going although it’s in all probability going to be one other mainland metropolis, and it’s going to lose its aggressive benefit, it’s not going to have the ability to compete with different cities in mainland China.
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