British barrister and Queen’s Counsel David Perry, retained by the Hong Kong government to prosecute nine pro-democracy figures for unauthorised assembly, will withdraw from the case, the Department of Justice has announced.

David Perry. File photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP.

“There have been growing pressure and criticism from the UK community directed at Mr Perry for his involvement in this case,” a department spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday. “Mr Perry expressed concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine, and indicated that the trial should proceed without him.”

Last week, a High Court judge approved Perry’s appointment as outside counsel for a trial against nine high profile pro-democracy figures, including media tycoon and founder of the Apple Daily newspaper Jimmy Lai, as well as veteran pro-democracy politicians Martin Lee, Lee Cheuk-yan and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung. They had been charged for allegedly organising and participating in an unauthorised protest in August 2019, in violation of the Public Order Ordinance.

Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai (centre). Photo: Studio Incendo.

Perry was to be flown in from the UK to act for the Hong Kong government on the case. He has, in the past, prosecuted high-profile cases for the government and successfully convicted former Chief Executive Donald Tsang and former Chief Secretary for Administration Rafael Hui.

British foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the British press last Sunday that Perry was acting “in a pretty mercenary way” to take up the case, which would be a “serious PR coup” for the Beijing government. Perry’s appointment was also criticised by members of the British parliament, Tom Tugendhat and Lord Andrew Adonis, the Guardian reported.

“Some of the ill-informed criticism conflated the matter with the National Security Law,” the Department of Justice said, without naming Raab. Raab had falsely said the case was prosecuted under Hong Kong’s national security law.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.