Hong Kong prosecutors have closed the case of media tycoon Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong prosecutors have closed their case against pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai in a landmark national security trial. The proceedings will resume at the end of July, when defense lawyers will argue that Lai has “no case to answer.”

Jimmy Lai. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lead prosecutor Anthony Chau told a panel of three hand-picked judges on Tuesday that prosecutors have officially finished presenting evidence to the court supporting the 76-year-old media mogul’s guilt.

The founder of the city’s now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper faces life in prison for two counts of “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” under a Beijing-imposed national security law, as well as conspiring to publish “seditious” material under a period law colonial. He was charged along with his former employees and three companies linked to the newspaper.

Tuesday marked the 90th day of a closely watched trial that was originally scheduled to last only 80 days.

Lai, who was feeling unwell, was absent from the hearing. Judge Esther Toh read a letter from her lawyers asking for the hearing to continue and for Lai to be excused, saying it was a “voluntary” decision and that “he will not be prejudiced by his absence.”

Toh granted permission, saying the tycoon was fully represented by his advisers.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions (Special Duties) Anthony Chau. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chau also submitted a list of revised translations – the hearing is in English – and a list of glossaries related to the exhibits. Lai’s lawyer, Steven Kwan, also filed a motion to officially designate evidence his team previously presented in court as defense exhibits.

“Having clarified all issues, we formally close our prosecution case,” Chau said.

Toh and her fellow national security judges Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios and Alex Lee will return to court on July 24 to hear defense arguments. Lai’s team is expected to present a “no answer” argument, in which the defense asks for the defendant’s acquittal, arguing to the court that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient.

Beijing inserted national security provisions directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution in June 2020, after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalized subversion, secession, collusion with foreign powers and acts of terrorism – broadly understood to include disruptions to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping powers and led to hundreds of arrests in the face of new legal precedents, and the disappearance of dozens of civil society groups. Authorities say they have restored stability and calm to the city, rejecting criticism from trading partners, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

Support HKFP | Principles and ethics | Error/typo? | Contact us | Newsletter | Transparency and annual report | Apps

Help protect press freedom and keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a senior reporter at the Hong Kong Free Press, she detailed the aftermath of the 2019 Extradition Bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic, and documented her hometown’s transformation under Beijing’s national security law.

Kelly holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a minor in Politics and Public Administration. Before joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the front lines, reporting on the city-wide unrest in 2019 for Young Post’s South China Morning Post. She also touched on sports and youth issues.

More by Kelly Ho