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Jimmy Lai and National Security Law in Hong Kong raised by US and UK at UNHRC

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

29 June 2023 – Yesterday, at a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva, before the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, US and UK government officials raised concerns regarding Hong Kong and the treatment of peaceful pro-democracy protesters but both expressly cited British citizen Jimmy Lai, who has been behind bars for 911 days as one of the most egregious cases of Hong Kong’s abuse of the law.

The UNHRC heard how the increasing crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, the unjustified detention of pro-democracy activists and peaceful protestors and the use of the National Security Law to silence dissent and arbitrarily imprison Hong Kongers has destroyed the fabric of Hong Kong. The use of the National Security Law, which has been in place for 3 years, has been raised as an issue at the UNHRC before.

US and UK officials expressed the unacceptable treatment of Hong Kong in interactive dialogue on the freedom of assembly and association.

Chinese government officials, unsurprisingly, claimed Hong Kong remains safe under the National Security Law. Granted a right of reply, China criticised the US and UK and pre-emptively criticised human rights organisations that may raise issues in Hong Kong before the UNHRC later this week.

Tomorrow, Jimmy Lai’s son, Sebastien Lai, will address the 53rd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council during the session with Clément Nyaletsossi Voule. Sebastien Lai will urge the Special Rapporteur to publicly raise his father’s case, and the increasing criminalisation of protest and opinions critical of the government in Hong Kong under the National Security Law.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, who leads the international legal team for Jimmy Lai and Sebastien Lai, said:

“Since 2020, Jimmy Lai has languished in prison in Hong Kong for standing up for freedom, democratic values and the rights of others. Yesterday in Geneva the US and UK governments stood up for Jimmy Lai at the United Nations Human Rights Council. China and Hong Kong must heed the international community’s clear message: it is time to repeal the National Security Law, respect international law and free Jimmy Lai.”

Mark Clifford, President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:

“International institutions and democratic governments around the world must stand up to the crackdown on the rule of law and freedom in Hong Kong. The fact that Jimmy Lai, a British citizen, continues to be held on spurious charges, shows the deep-rooted fear that the Chinese regime has of freedom of speech, free media and democratic movements. The US, UK and other governments should continue to call on Hong Kong to immediately release Jimmy Lai and other political prisoners.”

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