As 75-year-old Jimmy Lai languishes in prison, the Hong Kong government, pressured by the Chinese Community Party (CCP), is dedicated to ensuring that the country’s most famous freedom fighter fails to win any further support for his cause. Lai’s story has spread across the world, and the regime currently holding Lai in solitary confinement is realizing that the key to suppressing basic human rights in Hong Kong is to attack the credibility of Lai’s advocates.
Jimmy Lai has spent more than 800 days in prison for the crime of taking part in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in 2019 and 2020. Held in 35-pound handcuffs, the former entrepreneur has gone from a mere jailed rebel to the major face of resistance to the CCP’s terrible influence in a once-free Hong Kong. Lai’s fight for freedom has even earned him a Nobel Prize nomination. Most recently, Lai’s story has hit the ears of a worldwide audience courtesy of the U.K.’s All-Party Parliamentary Group, which released a report on the status of both Lai and broader media freedom in Hong Kong. It decries Lai’s treatment and the silence of Parliament on the unfolding situation in Hong Kong, especially in regard to the draconian CCP-enforced National Security Law (NSL), which Lai supposedly violated.
Lai, a dual Hong Kong and British citizen, faces a lifetime in prison on charges of conspiracy and foreign collusion, actions spurred by his production of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, shuttered in 2021 during the Beijing-backed enforcement of the NSL. This crackdown is the highlight of the parliamentary group’s excoriation of the CCP’s actions against Lai and his fellow democracy advocates.
“[CCP] authorities have weaponised the law as part of a campaign to smear Jimmy Lai’s reputation to justify the way in which he has been targeted by Hong Kong authorities,” the report reads. To the report’s authors, Lai’s predicament is more than an illustration of Hong Kong’s growing authoritarian rot—it’s also a failure of the British government: “The British Government may not have been completely silent on these developments, but its utterances have been barely a whisper.” The report calls for the United Kingdom to treat Lai as a political prisoner and apply further sanctions against China to secure his release.
The CCP has responded in smear fashion, deeming the group’s remarks an exercise in “fact-twisting” despite being largely sourced from legal documents and official State Department reports. “As always, the media can exercise their right to monitor the HKSAR Government’s work,” CCP advocates argued in response to the U.K.’s accusations of media censorship. “Their freedom of commenting on and criticising government policies … remains uninhibited as long as they are not in violation of the law.” The CCP did not mention that its own National Security Law makes such violations virtually impossible.
To Beijing’s mouthpieces, the outcome of the Lai trial is all but inevitable—Jimmy Lai and the pro-freedom voices who stand against him are “doomed to fail.” As Lai remains in prison, fighting against direct CCP attempts to withhold legal counsel, it’s difficult to see a positive end in sight without increased awareness of deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong. One can only hope that reports like the one out of the U.K. will give Lai and his team the visibility they so desperately need.
The Hong Konger, the Acton Institute’s new documentary, tells the story of Jimmy Lai’s heroic struggle against authoritarian Beijing and its erosion of human rights in Hong Kong. The film premiered worldwide at freejimmylai.com on April 18, 2023. Stream it now.