Opinion | What if these things happened in America
By Lo Wing-hung, senior commentator
Jimmy Lai is still on trial. On February 7, the Wall Street Journal published a joint statement by 4 former U.S. consuls general in Hong Kong, including Richard A. Boucher and James Keith, stating that they would continue to be concerned about the "horrific circumstances" of the case of Next Digital Ltd. founder Jimmy Lai and that the four said that they were extremely disheartened and concerned about the trial and that it was "a shame to see such a prominent Hong Kong journalist on trial for engaging in normal journalism," and that the case was "a stain on the reputation and splendor that Hong Kong once had. To see such a prominent Hong Kong journalist being tried just for doing normal journalistic work is to tarnish the reputation and splendor that Hong Kong once had."
As the former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, James B. Cunningham has been identified by the prosecution as a "co-conspirator" of Jimmy Lai, the statement issued by four former U.S. consuls general in defense of James B. Cunningham, who is also a former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, can only be taken as support for the actions of the U.S. officials. However, their one-sentence description of Lai is fascinating enough to be dissected and studied.
Firstly, a famous Hong Kong reporter? Four former United States Consuls General have described Jimmy Lai as a famous Hong Kong reporter. This statement is diametrically different from the perception of Hong Kong people. Lai is not a journalist, but a businessman and a media boss. The case reveals that Lai's private and companies' accounts had received HK$2.9 billion fund flow, of which HK$1.6 billion, or 55%, came from the United States, Canada and Taiwan. Jimmy Lai had remitted HK$118 million to his assistant Mark Simon, and it was suspected that he had paid HK$93 million to the pan-democratic camp and political figures, and it is also suspected that he had hired Paul Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense of the Department of Defense of the United States, to do some work for him, and he had made six transfers to Paul Wolfowitz amounting to a total of HK$1.76 million.
Which Hong Kong reporter with a fortune of $2.9 billion has the financial means to donate $93 million to a political party? I am afraid that even American journalists do not have the ability to do so.
Imagine if an American businessman were to act in collusion with a former Chinese defense minister and make a large donation to an American political party, I am afraid that the businessman would immediately be charged with treason. Remember that the maximum penalty for treason in the United States is death, whereas in Hong Kong, there is no death penalty.
Secondly, is he being tried only because of his normal journalistic work? Is it true that Jimmy Lai was only engaged in normal journalistic work? The facts of the case revealed by the court are horrifying. Among them, the court showed a message forwarded by Jimmy Lai to the former Chief Executive Officer of Next DigitalCheung Kim-hung, in 2019. The message was sent by the former United States Consul-General in Hong Kong, James B. Cunningham, who suggested Jimmy Laito hype up news about the visit of Chan Fang On Sang, the former Chief Secretary for Administration, to the United States to meet with the then Vice-President Pence. A former United States Consul-General in Hong Kong instructed a newspaper owner to hype up political news related to the United States, and the newspaper owner immediately took action and instructed his staff to make it bigger. Is it normal journalistic work to follow the instructions of a former foreign official?
In addition, the case also reveals that on March 30, 2019, Jimmy Lai sent a WhatsApp message to Chen Pui-man, the vice-president of Apple Daily, telling her to "continue to do news about the dangers faced by Hong Kong businessmen doing business in the Mainland, so as to scare those businessmen and make the pro-establishment camp not dare to do anything wrong." Is it normal journalism to do news to scare the businessmen?
Imagine if the former Chinese Ambassador to the United States had instructed the Wall Street Journal to make a big news story in China's favor; or if the United States had made some news stories to scare the businessmen in the United States because the United States had enacted legislation to impose tariffs on China, saying that they would lose a large amount of business, would the United States allow such a thing to happen?
Thirdly, has the trial tarnished the reputation and splendor of Hong Kong? Has the Jimmy Lai trial tarnished the reputation of Hong Kong, or has the trial revealed that Jimmy Lai's acts have tarnished the reputation of Hong Kong?
These four former United States Consuls-General in Hong Kong said that Jimmy Lai was like a reporter who was arrested and put on trial for doing news. However, this is not the case at all when it comes to the disclosure of the case. Jimmy Lai kept instructing the editorial staff of the Apple Daily to encourage people to take to the streets by all means, and he even made it clear directly that the number of people who had taken to the streets was too small and too quiet, so he told his staff to step up their efforts in publicizing the case.
Is it editorial Independent decision or is it the boss's decision?
Imagine a media boss in the United States who instructs his media people to mobilize Americans to take to the streets in support of the Palestinians and against the United States government, what do you think will happen?
Fourthly, should Jimmy Lai be released? Whether Jimmy Lai will eventually be convicted or not can only be decided by the Court. However, in a case involving the Consul General of the United States, it is a bit ridiculous for four former United States Consuls to issue a statement requesting the release of Jimmy Lai. Why should Hong Kong listen to these proposals when the persons involved in the case demanded the release of the conspirators? While the United States asked Hong Kong to release Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong can also ask the United States to release Enrique Tarrio, the head of the rightist group "Proud Boys", who was sentenced by the United States to 22 years of imprisonment for sedition. Will Tarrio be released?
The United States itself emphasizes the protection of national security against foreign interference. But at the same time, the U.S. is meddling in the politics of other countries, and even justifiably issuing statements calling for the release of co-conspirators, what else is there if not a double standard?
The views do not necessarily reflect those of DotDotNews.