A Hong Kong appeals court has upheld a decision to let British barrister Tim Owen KC represent newspaper owner Jimmy Lai in an upcoming trial of the entrepreneur over alleged breaches of the Hong Kong’s controversial national security law.
Jimmy Lai is set to face trial in December over claims his publication of his pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily breached Hong Kong’s controversial national security law.
The 74-year-old entrepreneur now faces prison over a series of charges brought against him under the controversial Hong Kong law, including conspiracy to print, publish, and distribute “seditious” publications and conspiracy to “collude” with a foreign country to endanger Hong Kong’s national security.
Lai is set to become the first Hong Konger tried for sedition under the national security law that was introduced in the wake of the protests that swept the city-state in 2019-2020.
Tim Owen KC, a high-profile barrister at Matrix Chambers – the London barrister chambers co-founded by Cherie Blair – was granted permission by a Hong Kong court to represent Lai in the upcoming trial.
The High Court’s decision was later challenged by Hong Kong’s Department of Justice on the basis that Owen, as an overseas lawyer, lacks the expertise required to understand the “highly specific” national concerns around Hong Kong’s national security law.
The Hong Kong’s Court of Appeals however rejected arguments brought forward by Hong Kong’s DoJ as it ruled there is no valid basis to overturn the High Court decision.
The court said that “public perception of fairness in the trial is of vital importance to the administration of justice” as it noted the “forthcoming criminal trial is a high-profile case attracting substantial publicity locally and abroad.”
Owen previously defended British banker Rurik Jutting in his Hong Kong trial over the murder of two women in 2016.