Evidence against Jimmy Lai ‘obtained through torture’: UN expert

A key prosecution witness was allegedly tortured during detention in a Chinese prison between 2020 and 2021.
By Taejun Kang for RFA
2024.01.31
Taipei, Taiwan
Evidence against Jimmy Lai ‘obtained through torture’: UN expert Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, looks on as he leaves the Court of Final Appeal by prison van, in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 1, 2021.
(Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Prosecution witness evidence in the trial of pro-democracy Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai may have been obtained through torture, according to a United Nations expert on torture. 

Jill Edwards, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, said Wednesday that she had written to the authorities in China calling for an investigation before evidence is admitted in court.

“I am deeply concerned that evidence that is expected to be presented against Jimmy Lai imminently, may have been obtained as a result of torture or other unlawful treatment,” Edwards said in a statement.

“An investigation into these allegations must be conducted immediately, before any evidence is admitted into these present proceedings.”

Edwards alleged that a key prosecution witness was tortured during his detention in a prison in China between 2020 and 2021, when the evidence was obtained.

Torture and other coercive techniques, including the use of fixed restraint chairs, to force confessions have been well-documented in China, she noted.

“The absolute prohibition of reliance on evidence obtained as a result of torture or other ill-treatment in any proceedings is a fundamental protection,” she said. 

“I have urged the Chinese government to undertake an investigation into these claims. I also reminded China of its duty to investigate all allegations of torture, prosecute or extradite suspects, punish those responsible and provide remedies to the victims.”

China has ratified the U.N.’s Convention against Torture.

Special rapporteurs appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council are unpaid experts who operate independently and do not represent the official voice of the U.N.

Edwards’ statement came after lawyers acting for Lai appealed to the U.N to investigate, saying a key witness for the prosecution was tortured before “confessing” to conspiring with Lai.

Lai's international legal team in London filed the appeal with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment over the treatment of Andy Li, among a group of 12 Hong Kong protesters captured by China’s Coast Guard as they tried to flee to democratic Taiwan by speedboat.

“Credible evidence is emerging that Andy Li was tortured when in prison in China before confessing to allegedly conspiring with Jimmy Lai to collude with foreign entities to endanger national security,” Lai’s lawyers said in a statement on Jan. 4.

“Andy Li’s evidence against Jimmy Lai – which it is suspected was coerced and obtained after he endured torture, inhuman and degrading treatment in Chinese detention, with the knowledge of the Hong Kong authorities – is central to the prosecution’s case,” it said at that time.

Lai, 76, founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, a Chinese-language tabloid renowned for its pro-democracy views and criticism of Beijing, pleaded not guilty on Jan. 2 to “sedition” and “collusion” under the sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong in 2020.

His trial, which began in late 2023 following over 1,100 days in jail, has faced widespread international condemnation, though Beijing has dismissed such criticisms as external interference. The British national is being tried without a jury and was not permitted to choose his preferred lawyer. 

Edited by Elaine Chan and Mike Firn

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.