12 December 2023 - Today in the British Parliament, Lord David Alton hosted a panel discussion regarding the ongoing detention of Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong. The event takes place the week before Jimmy Lai’s National Security trial is due to start in Hong Kong on 18th December.
Speaking on the panel was Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, Jimmy Lai’s international lawyer, Mark Sabah, Director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, Benedict Rogers, Founder of Hong Kong Watch and Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai's son.
Sebastien Lai, who is in London for a round of meetings with MPs, Peers and media, spoke about the impact that his father’s detention has had on his family but also the significance of his detention to Hong Kong people in general and how it is the clearest case of how the National Security Law has been used to bring Hong Kong, a once open and vibrant city, to its knees.
Sebastien also announced that he is due to meet UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron today. This is the first time he will meet with a British Foreign Secretary after three years of asking. Regarding the meeting with Lord David Cameron, he said: “In my father’s time of need, the British government need to speak out. A government should stand up for its citizens and should stand up for moral clarity. Our government is yet to call for his release. Hopefully, we will see some leadership from David Cameron.”
In her remarks, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC said: The American Government have called for Jimmy Lai’s immediate and unconditional release and so has the European Parliament. Why has the UK government not done the same thing?
She continued by pointing out the significance of the timing of the trial: “It is not a coincidence that Jimmy Lai’s trial is starting at this time (Christmas and the holiday season). It is a common tactic. We see this being done in many authoritarian regimes - the reckoning is that the world will be looking the other way.”
Mark Sabah, Director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said:
“It is absolutely correct that the Foreign Secretary David Cameron is going to meet Sebastien Lai. And especially before his trial begins next week. It’s embarrassing for the UK that it’s taken two years, two Prime Ministers and four Foreign Secretaries to get to this point, when it is a British citizen that is sitting in jail. We hope that David Cameron will take a strong position with the Hong Kong authorities on this and demand that Jimmy Lai is released immediately.”