BEST: Hong Kong government’s appeal against admission of British lawyer in Jimmy Lai national security case rejected | Tech US News


Hong Kong’s High Court will not allow the Department of Justice (DoJ) to appeal an earlier court decision allowing a UK lawyer to represent media tycoon Jimmy Lai in a high-profile national security trial.

The High Court previously approved an application to admit Crown counsel Timothy Owen to Lai’s trial, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Photo: Attached.

A final appeals court ruled against the Justice Department on Monday after the department made a fourth attempt to block Owen’s admission.

In Monday’s ruling, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung and Permanent Judges Roberto Ribeiro and Joseph Fok ruled that “no proper basis has been given.”

The panel of judges said that while national security concerns in the ad hoc admission of overseas advisers were “obviously paramount to be considered”, the department raised “undefined and unsubstantiated issues” that had not been raised in previous appeals.

Former Minister of Justice, Senior Advisor Rimsky Yuen. File photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

The Supreme Court also rejected the government’s argument that the admission of Owen raised questions about the issue of state secrets.

Former Justice Minister Senior Adviser Rimsky Yuen has previously argued that there are no mechanisms in place to ensure advisers abroad adhere to their confidentiality obligations.

The justices ruled on Monday that the involvement of sensitive matters in the case should be “adequately highlighted and fairly investigated” in the lower courts, “rather than first being raised as an unsubstantiated new point when leave to appeal to the last court is sought.” .”

Crown Counsel Timothy Owen leaves the Court of Final Appeal in Central on November 25, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Crown Counsel are the British equivalent of senior counsel in Hong Kong and require permission to represent clients in the city’s courts.

Possible intervention by Beijing

Ahead of Monday’s ruling, pro-Beijing figures suggested the central government could intervene in the case if the court did not overturn Owen’s confession.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s outgoing representative to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said on Saturday that allowing Owen to represent Lai violated the legislative intent of the National Security Law.

Asked if the standing committee would issue an interpretation of the law if the Justice Department’s appeal is rejected, Tam said the committee is responsible for clarifying legislative intent if the law has been misinterpreted.

There Yiu-chung. Photo: Screenshot by RTHK.

MP Priscilla Leung also suggested the possibility of Beijing’s involvement.

Leung said last Thursday that conflicts of interest could arise if overseas advisers were involved in national security cases, especially those involving alleged covert cooperation with foreign powers.

The lawmaker said Beijing had been very “stubborn” in interpreting the national security law and could issue an interpretation if it felt it was unclear.

It is not unusual to receive senior UK lawyers in Hong Kong, as many of them have represented the government in the past. In 2017, the Department of Justice hired British lawyer David Perry in the bribery trial of former CEO Donald Tsang.

High-profile trial

Lai faces a total of four charges: two counts of conspiracy to collude with foreign powers and one count of collusion with foreign powers under the National Security Act, and one count of conspiracy to possess allegedly seditious material under the colonial-era Sedition Act.

The founder of Apple Daily has been in custody since December 2020. Lai has since been jailed on other charges related to the protests.

Three companies linked to the defunct pro-democracy tabloid will also face trial. Six other defendants in the case, who were former employees of Apple Daily or its parent company Next Digital, have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at trial.

Apple Daily is the first news outlet to be charged under the national security law imposed by Beijing. The newspaper folded last June after the arrests of writers and employees.

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