Foreign politicians named in Jimmy Lai trial ask Hong Kong to let them give evidence

A group of current and former politicians from nine countries has offered to present evidence in the ongoing trial of imprisoned tycoon Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong.

Mr Lai, 76, a British citizen, could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty of sedition and collusion under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law.

The media baron, who founded the now-defunct newspaper Apple Daily, has pleaded not guilty.

The politicians are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), which describes itself as a platform for “addressing threats to the rules-based and human rights systems posed by the rise of China”.

They include former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith, former defence minister of Japan Gen Nakatani, Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy, Czech Foreign Affairs Committee chair Senator Pavel Fischer, former Canadian attorney general Irwin Cotler, MEPs Reinhard Bütikofer and Miriam Lexmann.

In a written petition to Hong Kong’s Department of Justice, the foreign politicians pointed out that they have been named several times during Mr Lai’s trial but not asked to appear as witnesses.

“The fact that members of IPAC have been mentioned dozens of times in court and yet haven’t been asked for statements or responses by any of the authorities in Hong Kong profoundly undermines the integrity of this entire process,” Baroness Kennedy said.

They have claimed to possess “evidence of clear probative value” that would normally be considered “essential to providing complete information to the court”. The Hong Kong investigators were being “highly irregular” by not approaching all witnesses in possession of probative evidence, Baroness Kennedy said.

Mr Lai’s trial in the West Kowloon Court is expected to last nearly 80 days.

If the Hong Kong court “really wants the truth, the Department of Justice will accept our evidence”, said Luke de Pulford, IPAC’s executive director who has been named a conspirator by the prosecution.

“In any normal rule of law jurisdiction, it would be inconceivable that apparent witnesses would be avoided simply because their evidence might be inconvenient,” he said.

“From the start, the National Security Law trial of Jimmy Lai has had the hallmarks of a foregone conclusion.”

The US and the UK have condemned Mr Lai’s trial as an “attempt to stop the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association”.