Hong Kong, China – Jimmy Lai, a detained pro-democracy activist and media entrepreneur, has filed an urgent appeal with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Lai’s international legal team alleges that the Chinese authorities tortured a key prosecution witness, Andy Li, in order to extract incriminating evidence against Lai.
Lai is currently standing trial for charges under the National Security Law (NSL), including conspiracy to sedition, collusion with a foreign country, and conspiracy to collude with foreign countries. The trial began on December 18 and centers around allegations that Lai persuaded foreign organizations to impose sanctions on the Chinese and Hong Kong governments. The Hong Kong government has urged people to refrain from commenting on the case as it could interfere with the judicial proceedings.
Andy Li, the witness mentioned in Lai’s appeal, was one of twelve fugitives captured at sea by the Chinese coast guard in 2020. Li has been detained by the Chinese authorities since August 2020 and was returned to Hong Kong in March 2021 after serving a sentence for illegal entry into China. Li pleaded guilty in August 2021, but his sentencing hearing was postponed until after Lai’s trial.
In a year-long investigation, the Washington Post reported on the possibility of Li being subjected to physical abuse and interrogations while in Chinese custody. The report cited people who claimed to have heard screaming consistently emanating from Li’s cell. The legal team supporting Lai’s appeal also referenced reports from the US State Department and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which expressed concerns about torture and coerced testimony.
The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which China ratified in 1988, prohibits acts of torture under any circumstances. Torture is defined as the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain for purposes such as obtaining information or a confession. The convention mandates that state parties take necessary measures to prevent acts of torture within their jurisdiction.
In summary, Jimmy Lai’s international legal team has launched an appeal with the United Nations alleging the Chinese authorities tortured a key witness in Lai’s trial. Lai is currently facing charges under the National Security Law, and his trial began in December 2023. The witness, Andy Li, has been detained since August 2020 and has awaited sentencing for 28 months. These allegations of torture raise serious concerns about human rights abuses and the fairness of Lai’s trial.