This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. （一周政情：借李宇軒供詞 塑黎智英罪證）
In the past week, the most prominent political news was the guilty plea by Andy Li (one of 12 Hongkongers that attempted to flee for Taiwan but were captured by Mainland China) and Chan Tze-wah (a paralegal) to conspiring with foreign powers to endanger national security. Their confession alleged that Jimmy Lai and his aide Mark Simon were the masterminds behind the case, providing funds and overseas connections, and arranging for them to lobby foreign governments to sanction Hong Kong officials. Although this confession has no probative value, it could become a key in Jimmy Lai's case if the two agree to be tainted witnesses for the prosecution.
In addition, the re-election of the Law Society of Hong Kong's council members was plagued by political interference, with some lawyers standing for election fearing for their personal safety and that of their families.
Andy Li is a core member of the "Stand with Hong Kong" team (SWHK) and is responsible for keeping detailed financial records, editing the "SWHK" website and registering trademarks in the US and the UK. In June, July and August 2019, the team placed ads in newspapers in many countries around the world for a total of 4 times. Afterwards, Andy Li met with members of Congress in the US. Andy Li also uploaded a number of articles calling for sanctions to SWHK's website. In terms of these statements alone, the prosecution has more objective evidence, such as screenshots of websites, mobile phone communication records, and documents stored in computers, etc. Andy Li is undoubtedly an important figure in the "international front" of the protest movement.
However, the prosecution alleges that Andy Li was manipulated by Jimmy Lai and Mark Simon, receiving instructions from them through their intermediary, Chan Tze-wah, and establishing a network of contacts with Western dignitaries under the arrangement of Mark Simon. This part of the charge is based mainly on the statements made by Li and Chan, as shown by the disclosure of the case.
The problem is that since they were intercepted on the Mainland, convicted and sentenced in Shenzhen, then sent back to Hong Kong. The two have been accused of colluding with foreign countries to endanger national security, deprived of their liberty, been in custody for a long time, and are mentally unstable and in need of medical treatment.
Their team of lawyers are not the lawyers that social activists are familiar with, but are likely arranged by the pro-Beijing side after convincing their families that their main job is not to defend themselves, but to reduce their sentence in exchange for a guilty plea and an admission of the facts presented by the prosecution. Under such circumstances, it is inevitable that there are questions as to whether the confessions made by Li were entirely voluntary and how much of it was a gift to the prosecution in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Legally speaking, Andy Li's confession was not admissible evidence at trial and could not be used directly against Jimmy Lai. To be used in Jimmy Lai's case, Andy Li would have to be called to testify in court, where the defendant's lawyer would be able to cross-examine him, and scrutinse his mental state and credibility of his confession. Politically speaking, the extensive coverage of Andy Li's confession in the establishment media has objectively had the effect of creating a fait accompli, creating the impression in the public mind that Jimmy Lai was behind the lobbying for international sanctions. Jimmy Lai is in prison and has no defence before the trial begins. If these charges are not disproved at a future trial, a conviction would mean a lifetime in prison with no prospect of release.
The re-election of the Law Society of Hong Kong is full of political interference. The absurdity reflects the political degradation of Hong Kong. Not only are the Legislative Council and District Council elections subject to political scrutiny and screening, but now even the election of directors of professional bodies is not free to proceed.
The Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, recently said publicly that she would "terminate the Government's relationship with the Law Society" if its members elected a leadership that "overrides politics with the professionalism". In the wake of the threat to HKPTU by national security law enforcement, the suspension of its relationship with the government's Education Bureau and the subsequent forced dissolution, Mrs Lam warned members of the Law Society by suspending its relationship, which is clearly a threat rather than ordinary advice. Such blatant interference by the Chief Executive in the internal re-election of a professional body is unprecedented.
Among the many candidates, which ones do the Chief Executive see as "overriding politics with professionalism"? Should we only vote for those candidates who have the clear blessing of the pro-Beijing camp? Irish lawyer Jonathan Ross is seen by many lawyers as a very professional, less politically charged candidate with experience as a council member. Without tinted glasses, it would be impossible to accuse him of putting politics ahead of professionalism. But the candidate suddenly announced that he was withdrawing from the election, citing "personal and family safety" as the reason for his withdrawal from re-election.
There are two reasons contributing his withdrawal. One was a suspected threat to him and his family, which was reportedly reported to the police by the Law Society. The second was that "word had spread in the legal profession" that "someone" had recruited "private investigators" to "investigate" the Law Society's candidate. It remains to be seen whether this information, which is circulating rapidly in the legal profession, is true, but prima facie it seems that the incident that triggered Jonathan Ross's withdrawal from the election was unusual. Does the so-called private investigator have anything to do with a member of the National Security Agency or a journalist who is a mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party?
Simon Shen, a Hong Kong commentator based in Taiwan, commented that it was "common knowledge" that "targets" were being traced around the clock before and after the National Security Law was passed. What used to be a slightly more restrained behaviour has now gone too far. But did "they" not exist before? Of course not.
The case of the Causeway Bay bookstore is well known, but there are many more that have not been announced, just like other victims like Xiao Jianhua who disappeared from the Four Seasons Hotel, never to return. Do you remember the Legislative Council election one year, when a certain New Territories candidate suddenly withdrew from the election? Naturally, there was a reason for this.
This kind of suspected secret service politics is even more stifling than the simple suppression of democracy and freedom, yet it is a favourite tactic of certain places. Jonathan Ross is right: "It is a shameful and sad day for Hong Kong that an election for the council of our honourable institution has sunk to this level.”