26 September 2023 – Tomorrow at the United Nations (UN), Sebastien Lai, son of Jimmy Lai, is scheduled to speak at a side event on media freedom in Hong Kong. Coinciding with British citizen Jimmy Lai’s 1,000th day behind bars, this event will focus on the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong since the imposition of the National Security Law (NSL) in June 2020.
China has sent a letter to UN delegations asking them to boycott the event. The letter to UN diplomats urges Permanent Missions to “refrain from participating in this event in any way”. In the letter, China affirmed that “Hong Kong-related issues are China's internal affairs”. The letter also claims that the fundamental rights of Hongkongers, including press freedom, have been better protected since Beijing imposed the NSL. According to Reuters, four diplomats confirmed receiving the letter, and three reported that Chinese diplomats contacted some countries individually to prevent them from supporting the event. The speakers at the side event will include:
Simon Manley, British Ambassador and Permanent Representative at the UN for the United Kingdom
Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai’s son
Rebecca Vincent, Director, Reporters without Borders
Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch
The side event is still scheduled to take place on Wednesday the 27th of September, with 22 countries co-sponsoring the event, including Czechia, Canada, Lithuania, Italy, Estonia, Norway, Sweden and the United States.
Jimmy Lai is a British citizen and 75-year-old husband, father and entrepreneur who founded Apple Daily and its parent company Next Digital, which is a now defunct pro-democracy newspaper and media outlet in Hong Kong. Lai is one of the most high-profile, outspoken critics of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong.
Mark Sabah, UK and EU Director for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
"China's attempt to boycott this event is yet another appalling act of Chinese interference at the United Nations. These actions show its weakness and insecurity in the face of public scrutiny. One day after Jimmy Lai's 1,000th day in prison, diplomats and stakeholders at the United Nations should attend this event on the deteriorating reality of press freedom in Hong Kong and hear directly from the son of Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper owner Jimmy Lai himself."