Jimmy Lai biographer: Trial is a ‘sham,’ but faith gives him ‘strength’

Mark Clifford Mark Clifford, president of the Committee for Freedom of Hong Kong and the author of a forthcoming biography of Jimmy Lai, speaks with “EWTN News Nightly” on June 11, 2024. | Credit: EWTN News Nightly/Screenshot

The president of the Committee for Freedom of Hong Kong and the author of a forthcoming biography of Jimmy Lai, Mark Clifford, calls the trial of the magnate a “sham” but said the 76-year-old Lai has the “strength to persevere” due to his Catholic faith.

Lai, the Chinese-born founder of the anti-government newspaper Apple Daily, entered a not guilty plea to the charges of conspiring to collude with a foreign power. The prosecution has rested its case and the trial has adjourned until next month.

“He’s charged with subverting state power, but all the prosecution seems to have shown during this lengthy trial that started last December is that he was a newspaper owner who believed in fighting for democracy, and if anything, acted as a moderating force, counseling nonviolence and restraint on the part of younger protesters,” Clifford said in an interview with “EWTN News Nightly.”

“I think there’s no case to offer,” he added. “But of course, I’m not a national security law judge in Hong Kong.”

Lai was arrested in August 2020 under that year’s national security law, which was passed by China’s communist-controlled government. He has been imprisoned by Chinese authorities since his arrest, largely in solitary confinement.

“The latest trial is another of the sham set of charges that they’ve brought against a man who they’ve proven only that he believes in nonviolence, and he wanted to put much of his considerable fortune where his mouth was for democracy and for freedom,” Clifford said of the Chinese authorities. 

But when asked if his Catholic faith was what has kept Lai strong, Clifford replied: “Absolutely.” 

“I think we’re all so fortunate that Jimmy has the strength to persevere, really, against Xi Jinping — it’s his faith,” Clifford said.

“He converted in 1997, one week after the handover of Hong Kong, which had been a British colony for 156 years and exemplified the sense of fair play and above all, rule of law that allowed Jimmy Lai to become such a successful and wealthy entrepreneur,” he continued.

“He married his wife, Theresa, in 1991, and under her influence, converted to Catholicism,” Clifford added. “It’s Theresa’s steadfast support as well as his faith that’s keeping him as strong as he is.”

When asked if Lai could get a fair trial in Hong Kong, Clifford said: “Absolutely not.” 

“I think it’s a shame,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful that he’s willing to show the Hong Kong system for what it is and how unfair it is.”

“He’s hired the best lawyers he can hire, and under Hong Kong law, under the mini constitution that the Chinese government wrote, he should have the right to have the best lawyer in the world,” he explained. “The authorities in Hong Kong, with help from Beijing, rewrote the rules so that he couldn’t have the foreign lawyer of his choice, a human rights advocate, a barrister named Tim Owen from the United Kingdom.”

“No, he can’t get a fair trial,” Clifford continued. ”It’s a joke for the world to think otherwise. But dictatorships like to play this game. They like to pretend that they’re doing everything legally, when in fact, they’re just trying to silence a very forceful and ineffective critic of their authoritarian regime.”

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