Jimmy Lai’s whole life—as a refugee, as an entrepreneur, as a champion of Chinese liberty—has been one long exercise in boldness. Now comes his boldest move of all: insisting on his innocence in a Hong Kong court where he doesn’t have a prayer of winning.
On Thursday, Jimmy, 73, is scheduled to go to trial on three charges related to collusion with foreign forces and another involving conspiracy to publish and distribute seditious material. Others arrested for national security offenses have pleaded guilty with the aim of securing a lighter sentence. Not Jimmy.
This trial is the culmination of two years of prosecution on lesser charges, including a conviction for business fraud. There is a logic here, because prosecutors want more than a conviction and prison sentence. They want to paint Jimmy as a corrupt businessman who worked with foreigners to undermine Communist China.
Under the new national security law, Jimmy faces the possibility of life in prison. There is not a man, woman or child in Hong Kong who doesn’t believe the verdict is already in. The authorities are taking no chances either, having Jimmy tried before three national security judges rather than a jury.
To what possible purpose, then, is his plea of not guilty? Certainly it isn’t for a better deal for himself. If that’s what he was looking for, Jimmy would have left Hong Kong and lived abroad in comfort when it became clear he was going to be arrested.
Simply put, Jimmy is making what may be his last stand for truth. The larger prosecution narrative is that Jimmy is selling out Communist China to the West. But Jimmy has never, for example, advocated independence for Hong Kong or Taiwan and has always insisted protests must be peaceful.
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Author: Ruth King
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