The local legal team representing jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai in his high-profile national security trial has said it is not “professionally associated” with an international group of lawyers who reportedly met with a UK minister over Lai’s case.

jimmy lai
Jimmy Lai. File photo: StudioIncendo.

Hong Kong law firm Robertsons Solicitors issued a statement on Friday night after the Hong Kong government said it “opposes and condemns” any interference from the UK following reports that a team of lawyers working for Lai had met with junior foreign office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

In the statement, Robertsons said it “exclusively acts for” Lai in his cases.

“Mr Lai has never instructed anyone apart from his legal team in Hong Kong to act on his behalf in relation to his criminal and related proceedings in Hong Kong,” the statement read.

It also stated that none of Lai’s legal advisors in the city “is in any way professionally associated” with the “international legal team” in question.

However, according to the website of London-based law firm Doughty Street Chambers, Lai’s “international legal team” is led by King’s Counsel Caoilfhionn Gallagher.

Robertson statement
The statement issued by Robertson Solicitors on Friday. Photo: Screenshot, Leung Chun-ying via Facebook.

The BBC reported last Tuesday that Lai’s lawyers in the UK had asked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for “an urgent meeting” on “potential ways to secure” their client’s release. Reuters later reported the lawyers had met Trevelyan.

Speaking in the British parliament on Wednesday, Sunak insisted on the UK’s right to get involved in its former colony, as Hong Kong’s civil liberties were meant to be guaranteed for 50 years under the Sino-British Joint Declaration agreed on before the city’s Handover from British to Chinese rule.

Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday that Lai and his lawyers in the UK were “blatantly perverting the course of public justice.”

HKFP has reached out to Doughty Street Chambers for comment.

Lai’s criminal charges

Lai, a British national, has been accused of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-implemented national security law and producing allegedly seditious publications under the colonial-era sedition law.

The 75-year-old founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily has been behind bars since December 2020. He is currently serving a sentence of five years and nine months for fraud over violating the leasing terms of his newspaper’s office complex.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.