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Jimmy Lai’s lawyers deny connection with UK minister

Hong Kong's Catholic media mogul has been behind bars since December 2020
Hong Kong's Catholic pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong's Catholic pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 16, 2023 11:20 AM GMT
Updated: January 16, 2023 11:34 AM GMT

A legal team representing Hong Kong’s jailed Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai has denied any professional association with an international group of lawyers who reportedly met with UK junior foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan for the case.

Hong Kong law firm Robertsons Solicitors issued a statement on Jan. 13 after the Hong Kong government said it “opposes and condemns” any interference from the UK following reports that a team of lawyers working for Lai had met with Trevelyan, the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported Jan. 16.

Robertsons said it “exclusively acts for” Lai in his cases.

“Mr. Lai has never instructed anyone apart from his legal team in Hong Kong to act on his behalf in relation to his criminal and related proceedings in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

It also stated that none of Lai’s legal advisors in the city “is in any way professionally associated” with the “international legal team” in question.

London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers said that Lai’s “international legal team” is led by King’s Counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher.

The BBC reported on Jan. 10 that Lai’s lawyers in the UK had asked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for “an urgent meeting” on “potential ways to secure” their client’s release. Reuters later reported the lawyers had met Trevelyan.

During his speech in the British parliament on Jan. 11, Sunak insisted on the UK’s right to get involved in its former colony, as Hong Kong’s civil liberties were meant to be guaranteed for 50 years under the Sino-British Joint Declaration agreed on before the city’s Handover from British to Chinese rule.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying wrote on his Facebook page on Jan. 15 that Lai and his lawyers in the UK were “blatantly perverting the course of public justice.”

Lai, 75, is a close ally of Hong Kong’s outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen, a strong critic of China’s communist regime who faced a criminal charge for associating with a humanitarian fund that assisted the supporters of Hong Kong’s often violent pro-democracy movement.

A British national, Lai is accused of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed national security law and producing allegedly seditious publications under the colonial-era sedition law.

The founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily has been behind bars since December 2020. He is currently serving a sentence of five years and nine months for fraud over violating the leasing terms of his newspaper’s office complex.

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