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Italian Parliament holds hearing on Jimmy Lai and Hong Kong civil rights crackdown

Updated: Jun 4

22 May 2024 - Today in the Italian Parliament, Mark Clifford, President of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) Foundation, and Mark Sabah, UK and EU Director of the CFHK Foundation testified to the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Indo-Pacific on the trial of Jimmy Lai and the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

The hearing was chaired by Paolo Formentini MP, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Chair of the Indo-Pacific Sub Committee.

Mark Sabah, Mark Clifford, Giulio Tremonti MP, and Paolo Formentini MP

Mark Clifford drew attention to the continuing erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong under the 2020 National Security Law and recently enacted Article 23 security legislation. The imprisonment of media entrepreneur and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who has spent over 1300 days in prison, highlights this assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms. Clifford also mentioned the many brave Hongkongers who have been jailed for fighting for democracy in Hong Kong including five Nobel Nominees from Hong Kong.

He also expressed concern regarding the possible renewal of a controversial agreement between the Vatican and China at a time when religious freedom in Hong Kong is under threat, as detailed in a recent CFHK Foundation report.

Clifford noted that the U.S government is currently reviewing several options to ensure that China continues to pay a cost for its actions in Hong Kong. Pending legislation would close the three Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in the U.S, and the CFHK Foundation is also seeking sanctions against Hong Kong individuals involved in the crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Mark Sabah, Director of UK and EU at the CFHK Foundation, called on the Italian Government to shut the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) in Milan, to provide safe passage pathways for Hong Kongers fleeing the territory, and to combat transnational repression directed against Hong Kongers and others by agents of the Chinese government. He also asked parliamentarians to ensure that the issue of Hong Kong’s more than 1800 political prisoners be included in every negotiation with China and warned the country not to be seduced by the economic promises made by the Chinese Communist Party.

This hearing follows on from the Italian Government choosing to withdraw from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2023. Reacting to the Italian decision to leave the scheme, the Chinese foreign ministry said “China firmly opposes smearing that damages Belt and Road cooperation.”

In April 2024 the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Hong Kong’s Article 23 security legislation and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Jimmy Lai, who is currently standing trial on trumped-up National Security charges.

Mark Clifford, President of the CFHK Foundation said: “We welcome the concern of Italian parliamentarians about the threats to Hong Kong’s freedom and salute their commitment to standing for the values of free and open societies everywhere. We appreciate their support for Jimmy Lai and other Hong Kong political prisoners and look forward to continuing collaboration.”  

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