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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Jimmy Lai's judges challenge 'mixes up black and white'

The selection process of designated judges for national security cases is not transparent and totally lacks public accountability, a defense lawyer for Jimmy Lai Chee-ying said yesterday as the imprisoned media mogul seeks a permanent stay of proceedings on his foreign collusion case.
But high court judge Esther Toh Lye-ping said such a statement "confounds black and white."

Toh and her fellow national security judges Susana Maria D'Almada Remedios and Alex Lee Wan-tang are presiding over the two-day trial that ends today.

Lai, 75, was absent yesterday.

Robert Pang Yiu-hung, for Lai, said there was also a "lack of security of tenure" in the chief executive's designation of judges to handle such cases.

Pang also said the designations divide judges into "tiers" and may create "apparent bias," with authorities never disclosing the selection criteria.

However, Toh said all designated judges are appointed on the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission, and they also handle other criminal and civil court cases.

A judgment will only be disclosed to the public, she added, when there is no jury, so that the public can understand there is no bias in the verdict.

Lee said chief judge Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor had also allowed king's counsel Tim Owen to represent Lai.

The trial of the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily and his three companies - Apple Daily, Apple Daily Printing, and AD Internet - is set to begin on September 25 and last 40 days.

Lai, his three companies and the six former Apple Daily executives are charged with "collusion with external elements to endanger national security" and "printing, publishing, selling, offering for sale, distributing, displaying or reproducing seditious publications".

Lai's trial was to have started on December 1 but was postponed after Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, who is seeking to bar UK barrister Tim Owen from representing Lai, turned to Beijing for a decision after the court of final appeal ruled against his administration.

The National People's Congress standing committee declared on December 30 that all courts should obtain a certificate from the chief executive, to certify the question of whether an act involves national security.

Owen was also spotted at the court yesterday on another case.

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