Criminal minds, criminal thinking!
Updated: Jan 4
The Jimmy Lai case raises more questions than it provides answers for about the implementation of the National Security Law and its bail terms, the motives and operations of the Department of Justice in Hong Kong and its Secretary, and the publishing imperatives of Chinese state media.
When Jimmy Lai was arrested in August and December 2020 under Hong Kong's recently imposed National Security Law (NSL), prosecutors claimed among the 73year old media tycoon's misdemeanours that on his social media Twitter account he followed both Chinese dissidents and foreigners, and that thousands 'followed' him on Twitter. Lai faces a charge of collusion with foreign elements to endanger national security, apparently for tweets he made and interviews or commentaries he gave to foreign media.
Even before the NSL was enacted in HK at the end of June 2020 it had plenty of critics, and since then it has drawn generous amounts of both praise and criticism. It is no surprise that Hongkongers now live in fear, as they don't really know when or how they might breaking the law. There has never been widespread public consultation on the legislation, or the actual intent and sweep of the new rules. Many now claim that HK is tantamount to a Police State.
Promotion and public education on the NSL seems to have deliberately shied away from its vagaries and potential conflict with other HK legislation. Nevertheless, the great majority of HK people are law-abiding and they wish their freedoms and rights to be upheld, for good governance and proper enforcement of the rule of law.
According to HK media citing local sources, Lai was accused of using multiple efforts to invite foreign countries to impose sanctions on HK and China.
WTPOHK ask: "Is HK some kind of party to which you need an invitation?" Does Jimmy Lai somehow hold court over other foreign nations so much so that they would not impose sanctions on the HK government, the State government or its officials without his permission?
"The prosecution pointed to Lai’s activity on Twitter, such as his tweets about the national security law, as well as articles he published in his pro-democracy tabloid.
"Sources told local media that the prosecution said Lai has over 120,000 followers, including Chinese dissidents Wang Dan and Wu’er Kaixi who led the Tiananmen student protests in 1989. They also cited Lai’s 53 following, such as Taiwan President Tsai ing-wen, US State Secretary Pompeo and Benedict Rogers, the co-founder of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.
"Lai’s meeting with Pompeo last July was included in the case summary, local media said, in which he said Washington could slap sanctions on the leaders of Hong Kong and China who “suppressed” the anti-extradition bill movement.
The judge presiding over the Lai case, Chief Magistrate Victor So, was “handpicked” by HK's pro-China Chief Executive Carrie Lam to hear NSL cases, according to HKFP. Lai's next scheduled court appearance is on April 16, 2021. According to Apple Daily his case was adjourned until then at the request of prosecutors, who said police needed time to review more than 1,000 tweets and comments made on his Twitter account. The Police charge sheet listed several foreign politicians who followed Lai on Twitter and cited commentaries he wrote and interviews he did with foreign media.
After Jimmy Lai was denied bail in the NSL hearing, there were many calls from within HK and from overseas for his release from prison. The Hong Kong Department of Justice (DoJ) said it was “appalled” by overseas government officials who were demanding the release of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai. A Department of Justice (DOJ) statement said that no one should interfere with its independent prosecutorial decisions that were based on "admissible evidence and applicable laws". (HKFP, 14 December2020)
Far be it from me to interfere!
Commenting directly on a case before the court would be interference with the judicial process and contempt of court, so from here on I plan to redact comments that might be directly critical of the court or its officials and publish the FULL blog once Mr Lai's court appearance is over. Is that fair? We let you draw your own conclusions.
It's possibly and probably a part of the job, being a Police Officer that you view others with suspicion...when looking for evidence and drawing up a list of criminal suspects you draw your net wide. Of course people are in reality "innocent until proven guilty" but in a copper's mind like the original sin, everyone is guilty until their innocence is beyond a shadow of doubt.
I make it seem worse than it really is for the Police who might otherwise feel neurotic, or develop psychosis for living amidst such an uncertain world full of potential criminals. Every dog owner is a potential bestiality felon; every gun owner a murderer; every one in possession of a laser pointer a person who disrupts police work or one who would blind members of the force; everyone with a social media account or a mobile phone one of those annoying doxxers.
Nevertheless, GUILT BY ASSOCIATION is a tactic or thought process that many officers and those in the community employ. It goes like this: "You're in a bar drinking. It's well known that this place is frequented by gay people, therefore you must be homosexual." To use a recent HK example..."This church used its funds to support protests and protesters, therefore its pastor, its officials and the entire congregation are complicit in committing offences against the state."
You might think 'guilt by association' is crazy but a HK bus driver was recently arrested and charged for having in his possession a spanner - the police no doubt argued it could be used as a lethal weapon, or as a tool for disassembling the fence railings that line HK streets to facilitate protest actions - whereas the bus driver reasoned the spanner was a tool of his employment necessary for adjusting the wing mirror on the bus he drove or for minor mechanical emergencies.
Now we have the NSL in place and to prove its effectiveness the HKPF are under pressure to bring charges - like the parking meter officer that has a daily tally of tickets to fulfil - a quota - in order to show that they're doing their job of catching criminals. I don't know what reprimand officers are given on the strange day that EVERY vehicle user in the city parks legally, and there are no expired meters. Those with responsibility for enforce the NSL have to arrest and charge somebody, otherwise the law and those who wrote it would simply look bad.
We have already heard a chorus of comments about how effective the NSL law has been in restoring peace to HK from the likes of CE Carrie Lam and others.
Jimmy Lai and a host of other activists have become the sacrificial lambs.
As anyone with a Twitter social media account will tell you, being a "follower" does not mean you are a convert, a believer, or a desciple of whatever tweets appears in that "person's"account. We ought to note that these days even businesses like newspapers or fast food restaurants may operate a Twitter account. No, being a "follower' merely establishes a technical connection between you and them - no more, no less. You can monitor what they tweet/write/publish about you or others or particular topics. You may or may not agree with them at all.
There is one wisdom, after all, that says it is best to keep your friends close and your enemies closer! Thus, it's only wise for Jimmy Lai, with his interest in media, in human rights, in HK affairs to have quite a range of connections that he 'follows' and any number of 'followers' who are connected to his Twitter account. It has to be pointed out to the prosecutor working for the DOJ that when a Twitter user allows another user to start following them, there is no customary credit check, no police vetting, no requirement for a character reference, nothing at all. Indeed, it's entirely possible that some Twitter personas are entirely fake....thus we have Twitter accounts that act purely as bait.
Any good journalist or reporter would not report the contents of a Twitter feed as fact without some other means of verification, such as meeting or talking with the person directly. I am not saying that Jimmy Lai and his Twitter connections are either innocent or guilty of any NSL crime. Rather, I think the evidence stacked up against Mr Lai as made public thus far is hardly convincing.
There is no smoking gun here.
In my humble opinion it's more like a smouldering cigarette butt! The dirt the DOJ think they have on the media tycoon will do its work to leave a smudge on their own integrity rather than on Mr Lai's.
The People's Daily newspaper published an editorial in China regarding an impending Court of Appeal decision Jimmy Lai 's bail hearing late December 2020. The first sentence of that commentary titled "Bail for HSAR rioter raises questions" referred to Mr Lai as "one of those responsible for instigating rioting in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region" and later claimed that he is a "pawn" and an "accomplice" of the United States.
Response to this outrage from the CCP's mouthpiece in mainland China that completely ignore rules of subjudice came swiftly:
"Lai case attacks 'put pressure on judiciary'", The Standard, 31 December 2020:
"Five council members of the Law Society of Hong Kong have criticized a People's Daily commentary on Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying's bail, saying it could be seen as an attempt to interfere with Hong Kong's judicial independence.
The commentary, published on Sunday, said Lai's bail granted by a high court was ridiculous, and the "notoriously dangerous man" should be sent to the mainland for trial.
The five - Mark Daly, Kenneth Lam, Janet Pang Ho-yan, Michelle Tsoi Wing-tak and Davyd Wong - issued a joint statement in their individual capacities on the eve of the court of final appeal hearing on the government's appeal against Lai's bail. The lawyers said the commentary, which was published days before the hearing, was particularly worrying.
They said "the commentary could be perceived as putting pressure on the judiciary to decide a pending case in a particular manner, which breaches the subjudice rule and could prejudice the accused's right to a fair trial."
The lawyers added that the attacks on the judiciary should cease immediately, as those ungrounded and unwarranted accusations could pose a serious threat to the rule of law in the SAR.
"Whilst members of the public have the right to discuss and comment on court rulings for reasons grounded on fact or law, such discussions should not cross into bare assertions, imputations of political bias, or attempts to put pressure on the judiciary to decide specific cases in a particular manner," they said.
"Otherwise, public confidence in the integrity, professionalism and independence of the judiciary would be seriously undermined."
The lawyers called on Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah to take action to defend the judiciary against the accusations from state-run media. But they emphasized that anything said in the statement is their personal opinion, and does not represent the views of the Law Society, which has more than 12,000 members.
The five lawyers also expressed concerns over suggestions in the commentary that Lai's case should be taken over by mainland authorities by invoking Article 55 of the national security law.
The article allows the Office for Safeguarding National Security to intervene in certain cases if foreign intervention is involved and the Hong Kong government cannot enforce the national security law effectively.
"We question whether China has adequate protection on the right to fair trial during the criminal process, as mainland China has not ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and has been long criticized on such," they said.
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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai jailed after bail revoked - PBSO News Hour, 31 December 2020
Hong Kong Media Mogul Jimmy Lai Sent Back to Jail - Wall Street Journal, 31 December 2020
Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Mogul, Is Ordered Back to Jail - The New York Times, 31 December 2020
The Jimmy Lai case raises many questions about the implementation of the NSL and its bail terms, the operations of the DOJ and the position taken by the Secretary of Justice, and the publishing imperatives of Chinese state media.
Under the HK Bill or Rights: [Underlining added for emphasis]
Protection of privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour and reputation
(1) No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
[cf. ICCPR Art. 17] Article 16
Freedom of opinion and expression
(1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
(2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
(3) The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph (2) of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary-
(a) for respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
(b) for the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
[cf. ICCPR Art. 19]
Special Note: Mr Lai holds UK citizenship (BBC, 11 December 2020)