Timeline: Jimmy Lai named as "highest level of command" in national security case
A lobbying effort framed as an international conspiracy
On August 19, 2021, prosecutors in Hong Kong laid out their case against Andy Li and Chan Tsz-wah for their links with the Stand With Hong Kong lobbying group, which played a highly visible role in publicising the political demands at the heart of the 2019-20 unrest in the city. Li was originally arrested on August 10, 2020, on suspicion of conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or with external elements to endanger national security.
The 30-page summary of facts in Li and Chan’s case, which was read out in court, represents the most detailed explanation of the case against the group, which had, up to now, only been elaborated on slowly while the police investigation continued. Despite the slow release of information, the case remains one of the most prominent since the passage of Hong Kong’s national security law.
Andy Li pleaded guilty and said that he agreed with the summary of facts before offering an apology. While Li’s guilty plea will undoubtedly play a role in his future sentencing, his admission of the facts also has implications for the other central figures identified in the summary, including newspaper tycoon Jimmy Lai. Chan also pleaded guilty.
The summary covers a series of events from June 2019 to February 2021. While Hong Kong’s national security law, passed in July 2020, is not retroactive, the High Court affirmed in December of that year that acts committed before the law’s enactment can be cited as a description of the background to the offence and as an indicator of the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the offence.
The timeline below is intended to serve as a convenient reference for those interested in following the remainder of this case, as well as future cases relating to the same events.
June 2019: Chan Tsz-wah learns on Telegram that efforts are being made to ask for Jimmy Lai’s financial assistance in publicising the Hong Kong protest movement’s demands internationally. Chan tries to approach Jimmy Lai and is introduced to Lai’s assistant Mark Simon.
June-July 2019: After being introduced to Mark Simon, Chan makes contact with Andy Li, and suggests that he organise the publicity campaign alongside Finn Lau. At that time, Lau is known on the online discussion forum LIHKG as “Laam Chaau brother” 「攬炒巴」and would later go into self-imposed exile in the United Kingdom, where he remains today.
July 2019: Simon meets with Chan and offers to transfer directorship of a British Virgin Islands company, Lacock Inc., along with control of its HSBC Hong Kong bank account. Simon reportedly tells Chan that the company can be used “as a vehicle for conducting propaganda campaigns in the future.”
August 2019: The “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” organisation is formed, with Andy Li and Finn Lau serving as core members. Jimmy Lai and Mark Simon are described as the masterminds and financial supporters behind the scenes, and have the highest level of command.
Lai approves any request for “substantial financial support,” such as seven-figure sums, while Simon approves requests for lower sums. Chan Tsz-wah acts as an agent, passing on instructions from Lai and Simon to Li and Lau, who in turn provide directions to other, unnamed members of the Stand With Hong Kong group.
Paid adverts are published in foreign newspapers, such as the Globe and Mail and the New York Times, calling for the Canadian government to “exert diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong and Beijing” and calling for the support of U.S. legislators in passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The latter legislation is eventually passed in September 2019.
To settle the publication fees for this and other parts of the publicity campaign, Lai and Simon make advance payments of around HK$5 million, The first of these sums, HK$1.56 million, covers the publicity in six newspapers, and is paid through companies controlled by Lai and Simon, including LAIS Hotel Properties Limited in Canada and Dico Consultants Limited in Hong Kong.
Li reimburses Lai and Simon for this amount after a crowdfunding campaign, and transfers HK$1.56 million to Chartwell Holding Limited in Taiwan, a company for which Simon is the director.
For the UK side of the campaign, a figure of £308,299.42 raised through crowdfunding is transferred from the UK bank account of Apple Daily columnist Jack Hazlewood to Li’s Standard Chartered account in Hong Kong.
September 2019: Simon arranges for Li to meet with US Senator Rick Scott along with Alan Brinker, a staffer at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong. At the meeting, Li shows them some of the used police ammunition, including spent tear gas canisters, in his possession to argue that police brutality is occurring in Hong Kong.
November 2019: Stand With Hong Kong holds an “election observation mission” and invites foreign politicians, such as Lord Alton of Liverpool and Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, to observe the 2019 District Council election in Hong Kong. Through this activity, Li expands his network with them.
December 2019: Li travels to the US and meets with Samuel Chu of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, as well as Senators Rick Scott, Todd Young and Ted Cruz. At some point before the meeting, Li shares with Chu a list of some 144 individuals, including Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials, identified as targets for sanctions.
January 2020: Finn Lau meets with Lai, Chan and an unidentified female in Taiwan. During the meeting, Lai explains his agenda of “Chi-bao” 「支爆」, in other words, bringing down the Chinese government by causing administrative and economic turmoil in the country.
January - April 2020: Li provides draft sanctions bills to members of the House of Representatives of Japan, including Shiori Yamao.
February 2020: In the US, Simon arranges the money raised through crowdfunding to be transferred to his personal bank account and a US trust fund he set up known as the “Project Hong Kong Trust.” Simon reimburses the publication fees prepaid by Li by transferring HK$3.2 million to Li’s Citibank Hong Kong account.
May 2020: Simon gives instructions through Chan Tsz-wah that Stand With Hong Kong should join the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).
June 2020: Luke de Pulford recruits Stand With Hong Kong as a member of IPAC’s Secretariat.
June - July 2020: Following instructions from Lai and Simon, Stand With Hong Kong engages with a US lobbying firm “to facilitate the implementation of anti-Chinese policies” by lobbing US officials and other political advisors.
July 1, 2020: Stand with Hong Kong issues a press release condemning the passage of the national security law in Hong Kong and calling on the British government to consider introducing sanctions against China and Hong Kong.
July 2, 2020: Li proposes to Luke de Pulford that lobbying efforts should be made to persuade 32 countries with mutual legal assistance agreements with Hong Kong to suspend these agreements. Luke de Pulford says that the work would be coordinated through IPAC and asks Li to arrange a meeting with Shiori Yamao. Li reportedly acknowledges that requesting other countries to cease extradition agreements with Hong Kong amounts to hostile activity against Hong Kong.
July 17, 2020: Stand With Hong Kong issues three letters titled: “Confidential Call for Suspension of the Extradition Agreement,” urging the Czech Republic, Ireland and Portugal to suspend their extradition agreements with Hong Kong.
July 29-30, 2020: Li offers his assistance in translating materials from the Japan Parliamentary Alliance on China (JPAC) from Japanese to English. Li arranges a virtual meeting between Shiori Yamao and Luke de Pulford. The draft bill of the Global Magnitsky Act is proposed at the JPAC meeting on July 29.
August 2020: A virtual meeting is arranged between Luke de Pulford, Shiori Yamao and Bill Browder, the head of the Global Magnitsky Justice campaign. The meeting is scheduled to take place on August 12, but ultimately does not occur because of Li’s arrest on August 10.
Li’s home is searched on the day of his arrest and police find the used ammunition Li had displayed in meetings with foreign politicians, as well as the 144-person sanction list he had shared with Samuel Chu in the United States in December 2019.
On August 23, Li attempted to flee Hong Kong along with 11 others with the aim of reaching Taiwan, but they are intercepted by the mainland Chinese coastguard on the way. Li is later convicted by a court in Shenzhen of participating in an illegal border crossing and spends seven months in prison before being sent back to Hong Kong.
October - November 2020: Simon informs Chan that he might be arrested for national security offences and reassures him that he will receive whatever support is needed from Lai and Simon, including arranging a potential escape to the United States.
February 2021: Chan is arrested and charged with conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security.
Finn Lau remains in the UK and Mark Simon remains in the US. Jimmy Lai is serving a prison sentence in Hong Kong with numerous additional criminal cases pending, including the national security charge relating to the events described above.