Allegations of Coerced Testimony: UN Urged to Investigate Andy Li’s Human Rights Violations

Allegations of Coerced Testimony: UN Urged to Investigate Andy Li’s Human Rights Violations
Hong Kong, by Tauno Tõhk via Flickr, August 19th, 2019.


Paloma Perez

East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

On January 4th, 2024, Dr. Alice Jill Edwards, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, received an urgent appeal from legal representatives on behalf of Jimmy Lai. The appeal centers on concerns regarding the treatment of former pro-democracy activist Andy Li, a pivotal witness in Jimmy Lai's ongoing trial. Legal representatives allege the existance of evidence suggesting that Andy Li's confession against Jimmy Lai may have been coerced under circumstances involving torture (Doughty Street Chambers, 2023).

The National Security Law (NSL), enacted by the People's Republic of China for Hong Kong in 2020, aimed to address national security, but faced scrutiny from the UN Human Rights Committee. The latter urged its annulment due to the alleged failure to uphold ICCPR responsibilities safeguarding freedom of speech, assembly, association, and fair trial rights (OHCHR, 2022). Jimmy Lai, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy figure and founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, faced charges, including collusion with foreign forces, conspiracy to commit fraud, and unauthorized assembly, following the NSL enactment (Gotev, 2023).

Andy Li, also an advocate for pro-democracy movements, was arrested in August 2020 while trying to flee from Hong Kong to China by boat. Returning to Hong Kong in March 2021, Andy Li pleaded guilty following the NSL. Currently, confined in a Hong Kong psychiatric facility, separate from the general prison population, Andy Li was summoned as a witness in the Jimmy Lai case, where he confessed to conspiring with the accused (Hawkins, 2024).

A report by The Washington Post in December 2023 concluded that Andy Li and his fellow detainees were exposed to mistreatment during their Chinese custody (Mahtani, 2023). Citing these findings, legal representatives express concern that Andy Li might have have endured torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, which raise doubts about the credibility and free will of his testimony against Jimmy Lai (Mandarin, 2024). Such actions would potentially contravene the provisions outlined in Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR, ensuring the right to a fair trial, and Article 7 of the ICCPR, which expressly prohibits torture. The report from The Washington Post emphasizes how once again the NSL undermines the remaining freedoms in the territory. And how this has led to unjust prison sentences for pro-democracy activists like Andy Lai, entailing the use of coerced testimonies to secure convictions.

Sources and further readings:

Doughty Street Chambers (2024, January 4).  Jimmy Lai’s National Security Law trial: Urgent appeal filed with United Nations raising grave concerns over the treatment of prosecution witness, Andy Li, and the reliability of his evidence against Jimmy Lai. Doughty Street Chambers.

Gotev, G. (2023, June 16). China calls European Parliament’s Hong Kong resolutions “publicity stunt.” Euractiv.

Hawkins, A. (2024, January 5). Jimmy Lai lawyers file UN appeal saying there is evidence witness was tortured. The Guardian.

Mahtani, S. (2023, December 18). Witness against Hong Kong media mogul was mistreated, Post examination finds. The Washington Post.

Mandarin, B. (2024, January 8). Jimmy Lai’s lawyers appeal to UN over prosecution witness “torture.” Radio Free Asia.

OHCHR. (2022, 27 July). UN Human Rights Committee issues findings on Hong Kong, Macao, Georgia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Uruguay. OHCHR.