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British Parliamentary Report on Hong Kong’s Media Freedoms and Jimmy Lai Takes Aim at HK Govt

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

Committee News

The British Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong launched a report, in which the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation) provided oral and written evidence, examining the devastating impact of Hong Kong’s National Security Law on Hong Kong’s media freedoms and the case of Jimmy Lai. At the report launch event in Parliament, Jimmy Lai’s son Sebastien Lai said, “By the UK government not standing up for Hong Kong and these freedoms and my father, they are accepting all the bad things happening in Hong Kong without defending the values that are important to the UK and Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong authorities “firmly rejected” the APPG on Hong Kong’s new report, claiming that Hong Kong’s media landscape is “as vibrant as ever” and citing how Hong Kong authorities honour Hong Kong’s National Security Law and Basic Law. This is nonsense. The CFHK Foundation’s President, Mark Clifford, said, “Saying so doesn’t make it so. The Hong Kong government’s claims are from a sort of Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy world. If Hong Kong’s government truly believed in a free press it would, for a start, let Jimmy Lai and the other dozen journalists it holds in jail free.

Han Zheng, Xi Jinping’s deputy, has been invited to King Charles III’s coronation. The CFHK Foundation’s President Mark Clifford told The Times, “There are over 1,400 political prisoners in Hong Kong today compared to none when Han Zheng took over the role to oversee Hong Kong in 2018. This should give the British government pause about inviting a man with this record of destruction to the coronation.”

In response to British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s speech on the British government’s latest China policy, the CFHK Foundation’s UK and EU Director, Mark Sabah, said, “It seems as if James Cleverly is willing to give China a pass so long as UK trade and investment can flourish, which sets a horrific precedent for other European nations who are in disarray over how to approach China.”

Chris Bryant MP and the CFHK Foundation’s Mark Sabah authored a piece criticising the British government for not doing enough to help British nationals Vladimir Kara-Murza and Jimmy Lai who are imprisoned in Russia and Hong Kong, respectively. “The sanctions [against some Russian officials who jailed Vladimir-Kara-Murza] were a good step, but their imposition must be the beginning of a long, determined campaign to secure Vladimir’s freedom. That campaign should be extended to include Jimmy Lai,” they wrote.

The CFHK Foundation’s Mark Sabah spoke with Dr David Bull on TalkTV about British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly sanctioning of Russian officials who jailed British citizen Vladimir Kara-Murza. “What is the government doing to get Vladimir Kara-Murza back? Not only him, but Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong, another British citizen being held in prison,” said Mr Sabah.

Grace Young, the CFHK Foundation's Associate Director of Marketing and Events, highlighted the history and importance of World Press Freedom Day in the CFHK Foundation's blog. "If we look at the jailed Hong Kong journalists and take no action, it will not just be a glimpse into the future of democratic societies, it will be the new norm," warned Ms Young.

Hong Kong

Jimmy Lai has won the Cato Institute’s 2023 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty. Mr Lai is the former owner of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper and has been imprisoned in Hong Kong for 848 days.

Hong Kong authorities prevented government-approved media outlets from attending their National Security Education Day event, ignoring emails and evading questions as to why.

Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's former chief executive, said that elections are not necessary for District Councils in Hong Kong. The last time District Council elections were held, in November 2019, the pan-democratic camp romped to a smashing victory.

Joe Wong, one of the organisers of Hong Kong's planned Labour Day march, went missing for four hours and mysteriously reappeared on Wednesday morning. Due to a confidentiality clause in the National Security Law, fellow organisers were unable to provide additional information but said Joe Wong had been under “tremendous pressure" and cancelled the event.

A Hong Kong student who attended university in Japan was arrested upon her return to Hong Kong under the National Security Law for supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests on social media. Human Rights Watch has urged Japan to resist the ever-increasing reach of China’s transnational repression.

UK-China Relations

While in London, Sebastien Lai joined James O'Brien's radio show to discuss the horrific legal climate in Hong Kong. Mr Lai said, “The fact that the [Apple Daily] newspaper was pro-democracy and pro-free speech means that [my father and his colleagues] are now in prison.”

EU-China Relations

During an event in Italy hosted by International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute, Baroness Helena Kennedy moderated a session on media freedom with a panel that included Sebastien Lai, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, and others. At the event, Mr Lai highlighted the "'systematic and precise' attack on media freedom happening in Hong Kong" that aims to "persecute journalists and 'threaten freedom and democracy".

Margaret Satterthwaite, the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, wrote to China’s permanent representative to the UN Office in Geneva to raise concerns about Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law.

US-China Relations

Janet Yellen, the Secretary for The U.S. Department of Treasury calledfor the US and China to build a constructive economic relationship despite conflicting national security interests.

Witnesses at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing urged the US government to publicly and consistently pressure China to release its political prisoners as well as impose transparency obligations on US businesses that operate in Hong Kong.

US Representatives John Curtis and Scott Peters reintroduced the Hong Kong Business Integrity and Transparency Act to create a channel for US companies to report when the Hong Kong government demands data, assistance with law enforcement, or the removal of content.

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