The national security trial of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, according to the judiciary, even though Beijing has not yet decided on a request from the government on whether he can be represented by an overseas lawyer.
The High Court has scheduled sessions for December 14 and 19 for the high-profile case involving the founder of the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper, the judiciary’s website shows, although prosecutors earlier indicated they would seek another adjournment on Tuesday pending the requested interpretation of the national security law.
Lead prosecutor Anthony Chau Tin-hang said earlier this month the delay needed would depend on the “timetable and response” of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislative body. The standing committee is due to next meet from December 27 and 30.
Judges have suggested that in the meantime the court deal with the tycoon’s application to terminate the case, based on the argument the trial was unfair.
Lai, who turned 75 last week, won permission from the High Court’s chief judge in October to hire London-based King’s Counsel Timothy Owen to lead his defence in the trial over charges of collusion with foreign forces.
In late November, the Court of Final Appeal cited technical grounds in dismissing the justice secretary’s last-ditch attempt to overturn the lower court’s ruling allowing the representation.
The top judges, however, left open the overarching question of whether legal practitioners from abroad should in principle be excluded from national security cases.
Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu asked the standing committee to decide whether allowing overseas lawyers to take part in national security trials should be allowed given the sensitive nature of the proceedings.