Prosecution witness denies fabricating evidence

A prosecution witness in the national security trial of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has denied defence allegations that he had fabricated his court evidence in exchange for a shorter jail term after earlier lying to police.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Paralegal Chan Tsz-wah on Friday insisted he was telling the truth after the defence challenged his credibility as a witness and accused him of fabricating his testimony in order to favourably influence his own sentencing, which is expected after the trial.

As the trial entered the 69th day, defence lawyer Marc Corlett pointed to 14 statements or topics extracted from Chan’s previous evidence that he said “were untrue and [were] something you came up with in the witness box for the first time.”

Those statements or topics included Chan recalling his conversations with Lai in a January 2020 meeting in Taipei about the work of Finn Lau, a UK-based activist better known for his alias “mutual destruction bro.” Corlett said those recollections were not found anywhere in Chan’s interviews with the police.

Chan Tsz-wahChan Tsz-wah
Chan Tsz-wah speaking at a Legislative Council panel meeting in 2016. Photo: Legislative Council live feed.

Corlett said Chan also made no mention to Lai of activist Andy Li, another defendant turned prosecution witness, according to his video interviews with police – contradicting what he said in his court evidence.

The defence lawyer drew the witness’s attention to one of his interviews with police, in which Chan was quoted as saying: “It’s simply just that I hate people who use lies to benefit themselves.”

“Isn’t that what you have done yourself? That you have made a number of false statements for the first time in the witness box to benefit yourself in the sentencing?” the lawyer asked.

“I disagree. Precisely because I hate it so much, that’s why I want to recount the truth,” Chan responded in Cantonese, before the defence concluded its cross-examination.

Legal representative of Jimmy Lai outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on February 2, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.Legal representative of Jimmy Lai outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on February 2, 2024. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Legal representatives of Jimmy Lai outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on February 2, 2024. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Chan earlier admitted that he gave false statements to police in an October 2020 interview that Mark Simon, Lai’s right-hand man, had never instructed him to do anything.

He also told the court he had falsely claimed to police that he was not part of the “Fight for Freedom: Stand with Hong Kong (SWHK)” advocacy group, in order to downplay his role in the group’s international lobbying campaign.

Lai, 76, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiring to collude with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed national security law and also denied a third count of conspiring to publish “seditious” materials.

Prosecutors allege that Lai used Chan as a middleman to relay his instructions to SWHK in a scheme to request foreign sanctions against China and Hong Kong.

Chan was first arrested in October 2020 for assisting an offender. He was arrested a second time in February 2021 under one of Lai’s collusion conspiracy charges.

He agreed to testify against the tycoon around March, roughly six weeks after his arrest, the court was told.

‘Distance myself’

Under the prosecution’s re-examination, Chan said following his first arrest he made false statements to police out of a “mentality of luck” that he could avoid legal consequences.

“At the time I still thought luck would be on my side, I thought I could distance myself,” Chan said.

“From what?” asked lead prosecutor Anthony Chau.

“Mark Simon, Jimmy Lai, Stand With Hong Kong, Finn Lau, and Andy Li,” Chan responded. “I thought after the police had taken my statement, and after I had left the police station, Mark Simon could arrange my way out of Hong Kong.”

Detained Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. File photo: Studio Incendo.Detained Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. File photo: Studio Incendo.
Detained Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai. File photo: Studio Incendo.

Chau’s re-examination was interrupted as Corlett raised concern about the prosecution extending its scope of questioning beyond the 14 statements or topics presented by the defence.

But two judges sitting on the bench posited that the prosecution should be allowed to clarify why the witness gave false accounts to the police before changing his mind to act as a prosecution witness.

The trial continues on Monday.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methodscontribute to hkfp methods

0 Comments

Leave a Comment