29 September 2023 – The Hong Kong government has reacted angrily to a campaign highlighting the unjust detention of pro-democracy newspaper owner Jimmy Lai.
To mark Jimmy Lai’s 1,000th day behind bars, the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation) led 66 organisations from around the world in co-signing a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to hold Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee accountable for the unjust imprisonment of Jimmy Lai and other political prisoners in Hong Kong.
The letter encourages U.S. government officials to leverage its sanction authorities under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, Hong Kong Autonomy Act, and Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to issue sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for the deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong. The letter also asks the U.S. to ensure that John Lee is not invited to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco this November.
The Hong Kong government released an official response where they “strongly condemned and opposed the misleading and slanderous remarks” by the CFHK Foundation, other human rights organisations, and overseas media regarding Jimmy Lai’s 1,000th day in prison. The Hong Kong authorities referred to our collective efforts as “political interference in the internal affairs” of Hong Kong and affirmed that fundamental rights and freedoms are honoured in Hong Kong.
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong also reacted, stating, “The likes of Jimmy Lai have long been firmly nailed to the pillar of humiliation for betraying the motherland and the people must be duly punished under the rule of law. We urge a few politicians of the US and some other Western countries to respect the spirit of the rule of law, stop their futile efforts to whitewash criminals, and stop undermining the judicial system of [Hong Kong]!”
This week, 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 immediate and unconditional release of Jimmy Lai.
Jimmy Lai is a 75-year-old British citizen, who founded the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily. Lai was wrongfully detained on December 31, 2020 under the Beijing-imposed National Security Law (NSL). In addition to his current jail sentence on spurious fraud charges, Lai served a 20-month prison sentence for peacefully protesting in 2019 and 2020. After multiple delays to the start of his NSL trial, Lai’s trial is now due to begin on December 18.
Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the CFHK Foundation, said:
“Jimmy Lai continues to be separated from his family and stripped of his freedoms at the age of 75 simply for publishing the truth. What the Chinese Communist Party has locked up is not just Jimmy himself, but also the freedom and values we hold dear in Hong Kong. It is crucial for the U.S. administration to speak up for Jimmy Lai and call for his immediate and unconditional release. We call on the U.S. government to leverage the law to hold Hong Kong officials, including John Lee, to account for their ongoing efforts to undermine freedom in Hong Kong.”