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CFHK Foundation Chairman Ambassador James Cunningham Testifies on Jimmy Lai in Canadian Parliament

Updated: Jun 4

13 February 2024 – Today in the Canadian Parliament, Ambassador James B. Cunningham, Chairman of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation, and former US Consul General to Hong Kong, testified before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, on the trial of Jimmy Lai and his ongoing detention in Hong Kong.

During his address to the Subcommittee, Ambassador Cunningham drew attention to the alarming erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong, epitomised by the imprisonment of pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai. His speech underscored the stark clash between Xi Jinping's authoritarian agenda and the cherished liberal values upheld by democratic societies, including Canada.

He called on the Canadian government to press for the release of Jimmy Lai and all political prisoners; sanction Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and other senior Hong Kong officials, and called on Canada to demand the removal of former Canadian Chief Justice McLachlin from her role in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. He also urged Canada to close the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Toronto.

Other speakers at the hearing included: Benedict Rogers, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch, Fernando Cheung Former Member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and representative of Canada-Hong Kong Link, Zein Almoghraby, Director, Journalists for Human Rights.

As the National Security trial of Jimmy Lai resumed in Hong Kong last month, the court was given a list of people named as Jimmy Lai’s “co-conspirators” on trumped up charges of "collusion with foreign forces" and named several foreign citizens including Benedict Rogers and James Cunningham, who responded to the accusation by saying: “The trial of Jimmy Lai is nothing more than a show trial. It is a sham and a travesty of justice. It exposes the collapse of rule of law and an independent judiciary in a once great, global city.”

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

Last week the Subcommittee heard testimony 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 Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).

James Cunningham served as Ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations (1999 -2004), Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau (2005-2008), Ambassador to Israel (2008-2011) and Deputy Ambassador and Ambassador to Afghanistan (2011-2014).

Ambassador James Cunningham, Chairman of the CFHK Foundation said: “Hong Kong once embodied liberties not available to mainland Chinese. Jimmy and the more than 1,700 political prisoners languishing in Hong Kong jails for peaceful political activity that was previously protected in Hong Kong, give evidence that those liberties are no longer available.

Jimmy chose his path when he did not need to. He had options. He chose to stand against the authoritarians in Beijing, against repression, and for the principles and values of a free and democratic world. To stand for the promise of Hong Kong, and its people.”

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