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PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Parliament hears evidence on ongoing trial and detention of Jimmy Lai

7 February 2024 – Yesterday in the Canadian Parliament, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard evidence on the trial of Jimmy Lai and his ongoing detention in Hong Kong.  

During the session, titled: “Detention of Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong” testimony was heard from Jimmy Lai’s son Sebastien Lai, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Jonathan Price from Jimmy Lai’s international legal team at Doughty Street Chambers, Katherine Leung from Hong Kong Watch and Chung Ching Kwong and Luke de Pulford from the Interparliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).  

The subcommittee, which sits under the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (SDIR), chaired by Fayçal El-Khoury MP, was attended by Members of Parliament from various political parties including Garrett Genius (Conservative), Alix Brunelle-Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois), Ali Ehsassi (Liberal), and Shuvaloy Majumdar (Conservative). 

In 2021, China imposed sanctions upon Canadian politicians including those sitting on SDIR, for speaking out against its human rights abuses.  

During Tuesday’s hearing, speakers expressed concerns over the sham trial of Jimmy Lai which they said epitomises the “tip of the iceberg” of the destruction of rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong. Speakers cited the concerns of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, regarding the coerced testimony of Andy Li, who will appear as a key witness in Jimmy Lai’s trial. They also expressed concerns about British and American citizens being named as co-conspirators in Lai’s trial. 

Several issues beyond Lai’s case were raised, including the issue of foreign judges, particularly Canadian judge and former Chief Justice, Beverley McLachlin, who sits on the Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal. They also discussed the erosion of fundamental rights within Hong Kong, and increasing instances of transnational repression on Canadian soil at the hands of the Chinese authorities.  

Speakers called on the Canadian government to address concerns raised in the hearing and implement sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who hold foreign passports and are protected by the freedoms within democracies while simultaneously cracking down on those freedoms in their own jurisdictions. In 2023, the Canadian Senate unanimously called for the immediate and unconditional release of Jimmy Lai, and the speakers at the hearing demanded that the House of Commons immediately follow suit. 

Sebastien Lai, son of Jimmy Lai said: “Hong Kong is brazenly cracking down on its citizen’s fundamental freedoms while lying to the world that it remains a rule of law complying jurisdiction. They are doing so on the assumption that democratic countries, such as Canada, will turn a blind eye because of the size of China’s economy. The authorities also draw confidence to do so from judges from democratic countries, including Canada, who continue to sit on the city’s Court of Final Appeal. My father’s show trial is a blatant perversion of Hong Kong’s justice system to persecute one of the most honoured defenders of democracy.”  

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, Jimmy Lai’s international lawyer said: “Jimmy Lai is accused of three things; conspiracy to commit journalism, conspiracy to raise human rights concerns with human rights organisations, and conspiracy to raise political concerns with politicians. Frankly, these are not crimes, they are actions protected under international law echoing the protections here in Canada and they are actions that should remain protected in the Sino-British joint declaration.” 

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