2 October 2023 – On Friday, U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin submitted a speech on Jimmy Lai to the Congressional Record to mark Lai’s 1,000th day behind bars in Hong Kong. Jamie Raskin, a Democratic Congressman from Maryland, called for Lai’s "immediate release and freedom from the Chinese government".
Congressman Raskin wrote, "Jimmy Lai recognized that a free press that reports the facts is essential to democracy and a free society. It is for this principled defense of truth and common sense in a civil society that Mr. Lai has been unjustly detained by China’s authoritarian expansion into the free city of Hong Kong. According to the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a human rights organization, Jimmy Lai is one of 1,648 Hong Kongers who are political prisoners today. This staggering number—reached after just four years—puts the once-free Hong Kong on the same plane as countries like Belarus and Myanmar. Everyday Hong Kongers who dared to dream of a democratic future are instead languishing in detention. They await trial and sentencing before a hyper-politicized judiciary executing a twisted facsimile of Hong Kong’s traditionally independent, common law court system."
The Congressman ended by saying, "I salute the courageous activists, like Jimmy Lai, who refuse to bend to the brutal forces of fear and authoritarianism. I stand here today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in solidarity with Jimmy Lai as he marks his one thousand and first day as a political prisoner. Please join me in acting in solidarity with Jimmy Lai and demand his immediate release and freedom from the Chinese government."
Congressman Raskin also announced that he has begun the process of adopting Jimmy Lai as a prisoner of conscience through the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights’ Defending Freedoms Project. This Project provides a platform for Members of Congress to raise awareness about the unjust imprisonment of prisoners of conscience and to publicly advocate for their release.
Representative Raskin’s remarks follow a week of international activities calling for the release of Jimmy Lai as he hit 1,000 consecutive days in a Hong Kong prison. The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation) led 66 organisations in co-signing a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to hold Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee accountable for the imprisonment of Jimmy Lai. A joint letter led by the Committee to Protect Journalists was also sent to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, calling on him to take action to secure the unconditional release of Jimmy Lai. The Scottish Parliament lodged a motion supported by all political parties to demand that the British government do more to free Jimmy Lai. The U.S. State Department and many U.S., U.K., and European government officials made public statements calling for Lai’s release. Hong Kong and Beijing government officials fired back in response to these successful international advocacy efforts.
Jimmy Lai is a British citizen and 75-year-old husband, father, and Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper owner who symbolises democracy. In addition to Lai’s current jail sentence for trumped-up fraud charges, Lai served a 20-month prison sentence for participating in peaceful protests in 2019 and 2020. Lai’s trial involving his National Security Law charges has been delayed twice but is now expected to begin on the 18th of December.
Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD-08) said:
"Jimmy Lai has spent more than 1,000 days in a cell for daring to stand up for freedom in Hong Kong. His imprisonment for thought crime is a terrible embarrassment for China, revealing both the human costs of authoritarianism and China’s alarming dependence on repression to govern. The authoritarian attack on democracy is global, which is why our movement to defend democracy must be global. We stand for a free press that tells the truth and promotes informed debate. China, free Jimmy Lai now!"
Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the CFHK Foundation, said:
"I applaud Congressman Raskin for placing Jimmy Lai's case on the Congressional Record as he hit 1,000 days behind bars in Hong Kong. It is a timely reminder that the Chinese Communist Party continues its repressive and authoritarian rule over people who hold democratic values around the world. World leaders and policymakers should together shine a light on Jimmy Lai and the deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong by calling for the release of Jimmy Lai and 1,600 other political prisoners in Hong Kong."