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Canadian Parliament passes unanimous motion to free Jimmy Lai

Updated: Jan 30

15 December 2023 - The Canadian Parliament unanimously passed a motion this week, calling for the release of Jimmy Lai. Lai has been repeatedly targeted by the Hong Kong authorities for his peaceful pro-democracy activities and journalism, which criticised the Hong Kong Government’s behaviour and the destruction of the Sino-British Declaration by the Chinese Communist Party. 

The motion was introduced on Tuesday 12 December by the Hon. Judy Sgro MP, a Liberal MP from Ontario. 

The Canadian motion states: 

“By unanimous consent, it was resolved, — That, given that, 

Jimmy Lai stands for so many of the values championed by Canadians, most importantly media freedom, respect for the rule of law, and standing up for what is right, 

Mr Lai is a peaceful pro-democracy campaigner and publisher whose hugely popular newspaper Apple Daily was shut down for political reasons in 2021, 

Mr Lai has just spent his 76th birthday in prison where he has been for the last three years on charges brought under the National Security Law, whose provisions are inconsistent with international human rights law, 

Mr Lai is about to face trial on yet further charges arising from his pro-democracy writing and campaigning that could see him spend the rest of his life behind bars, 

the House call upon the Hong Kong authorities to release Jimmy Lai and cease prosecuting him and others charged under the National Security Law and the House reaffirms journalists and media workers everywhere have the right to operate in an environment free from intimidation and harassment by state authorities.” 

The call for Jimmy Lai’s release by the Canadian Parliament follows similar calls made by other states and bodies, including the US Congress, the European Parliament, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Peaceful Assembly. 

Jimmy Lai has been detained since 31 December 2020. In addition to an ongoing sentence for trumped-up fraud charges, Lai earlier served a 20-month prison sentence for participating in peaceful protests in 2019 and 2020. Lai faces a possible life sentence under the National Security Law in a trial due to begin on Monday 18 December. 

Sebastien Lai, the son of Jimmy Lai, said “I am deeply grateful to the Canadian House of Commons for this unanimous motion calling for my father’s release. It is a reminder that the defenders of freedom are not alone. I thank Canada for its moral clarity, championing so clearly its democratic values. Canada has stood by my father and made us all more hopeful that we will see him free.” 

Mark Sabah, Director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said:

“This is a fantastic step and I applaud the Canadian Parliament for this bold initiative and to Judy Sgro MP for her leadership. We congratulate all those Members of the Canadian Parliament who supported the motion. It is time for Parliament’s around the world, who believe in free speech, freedom of assembly and democracy, to do the same and publicly support Jimmy Lai, especially the British Government.” 

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