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Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai’s son and London lawyers accused of abuse of UN after appeal to human rights council over collusion trial

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 15/03/2023 Ng Kang-chung
  • Sebastian Lai and London-based lawyers tell UN meeting Lai senior faces 'trumped up charges of sedition and endangering national security'
  • But government says it opposes 'foreign interference' in court cases and accuse Lai and legal team of insulting national security law and the judicial process

The son of media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and his London-based lawyers have been accused by the Hong Kong government of abuse of the United Nations after they asked its Human Rights Council to interfere in Lai's national security trial.

The government hit out after the lawyers and Sebastian Lai raised concerns about his father's detention and prosecution with a UN special rapporteur at a meeting of the organisation's human rights council in Geneva on Tuesday.

The government said on Wednesday it "strongly opposes foreign interference with judicial proceedings" and accused Lai's son and the legal team of insulting the national security law and the judicial system of Hong Kong.

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"Any attempt by any country, organisation, or individual to interfere with judicial proceedings by means of political power in order to procure a defendant's evasion of the criminal justice process is a blatant act undermining the rule of law of Hong Kong," the city government said.

Hong Kong police outside the headquarters of Apple Daily newspaper after it was raided in 2020. Photo: Winson Wong © Provided by South China Morning Post Hong Kong police outside the headquarters of Apple Daily newspaper after it was raided in 2020. Photo: Winson Wong

"Making a statement with the intent to interfere with or obstruct the course of justice, or engaging in conduct with the same intent, is very likely to constitute the offence of criminal contempt of court or the offence of perverting the course of justice."

"The government will never tolerate, and strongly deplores, any form of interference by anyone including the so-called 'international legal team' with the judicial proceedings of Hong Kong."

Sebastian Lai said at the UN session that his father had been subject to "a litany of legal proceedings that have resulted in lengthy and disproportionate terms of imprisonment".

"He now faces trial on trumped-up charges of sedition and endangering national security for his journalism, a trial that could condemn him to spend the rest of his life in prison," the son added.

"I call on the United Nations experts and the international community, all those who treasure fundamental rights and freedoms, to call out Hong Kong's abuse of the law to persecute my father and his colleagues, and others for exercising their rights to free speech and a free press."

'Little chance' Jimmy Lai will get UK counsel for Hong Kong security trial

The British lawyers also alleged Hong Kong had abused the Beijing-imposed national security law to "criminalise journalism".

Lai, 75, a dual Hong Kong and British citizen and founder of the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper, is facing trial in Hong Kong on charges of collusion with foreign forces.

The Hong Kong government also denied in their Wednesday statement that political considerations had been involved in the Lai case.

"Independent prosecutorial decisions for each case are made in a rigorous and objective manner, strictly based on evidence and applicable laws and are in accordance with the Prosecution Code," it said.

Officials also emphasised that the Basic Law, the city's mini-constitution, and the Bill of Rights guaranteed fair trials.

Beijing, Hong Kong hit out after UK asks city to stop 'targeting' tycoon Jimmy Lai

The British legal team managed to secure London's pledge to support human rights and calls for Hong Kong to stop "targeting" Lai after a meeting in January with a junior minister in the UK's foreign office.

The move drew strong criticism at the time from the city government and Beijing's foreign ministry commissioner in the city.

But Lai's legal representatives in Hong Kong later denied that Lai had any association with the "international legal team".

They said Lai had "never instructed anyone apart from his legal team in Hong Kong to act on his behalf" in the national security case.

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (, the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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