The British QC hired to run the prosecution of senior Hong Kong activists, including the media mogul Jimmy Lai, has pulled out of the case after widespread pressure, the territory’s government has said.
David Perry QC had been instructed by the Hong Kong justice department to prosecute 76-year-old Lai and eight others including the democracy figure Martin Lee and the veteran activist Lee Cheuk-yan. The group are charged with public order offences for organising and taking part in an unauthorised assembly. Lai, who is in jail on remand, is facing multiple separate charges including under the national security law.
In a statement on Wednesday the Hong Kong government said there had been “growing pressure and criticism from the UK community directed at Mr Perry QC for his involvement in this case”.
“Mr Perry QC expressed concerns about such pressures and the exemption of quarantine, and indicated that the trial should proceed without him. In light of the public interest involved and the imminent trial date the DoJ has instructed another counsel to prosecute the trial as scheduled.”
Lai’s prosecution has been widely criticised as part of a government campaign against dissent in Hong Kong, and Perry’s decision to take the appointment drew scathing criticism, including from British legal circles and the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who described Perry’s decision as “mercenary”.
The Hong Kong government said criticism of Perry had been “ill-informed” and many had conflated the case with the national security law.
The nine defendants had police permission to hold the August 2019 demonstration but the police commissioner has accused them of breaching the order by allowing the rally to leave Victoria Park.