Catholic Activist in Hong Kong Jail For Nearly 3 Years, Trial in December

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CV NEWS FEED // Jimmy Lai, a Catholic Hong Kong businessman, journalist, and prominent critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), has been in jail for 1,000 days. His trial is scheduled for December 18.

Lai’s trial will come almost exactly three years after he was arrested for allegedly violating Hong Kong’s national security law. His trial was originally set for December of last year, but it has been delayed multiple times. 

If Lai is convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reported this week that Lai “spends about 23 hours a day in solitary confinement in Hong Kong’s Stanley Prison, a maximum-security facility, according to AP, and is allowed outside to exercise for 50 minutes a day in a small enclosure surrounded by barbed wire.”

“I don’t want to see my father die in jail,” said Lai’s son Sebastien. “He’s 75, he’s in prison, he does risk just dying. It is very worrying.” 

Lai is a citizen of the United Kingdom. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and ten other human rights organizations on Sunday penned a letter to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging him to “take immediate and decisive action to secure” Lai’s release. Amnesty International UK was among the letter’s signatories.

The groups wrote:

Lai’s crime consists of owning and directing a news organization that was reporting on the concerns and struggles of a pro-democracy movement that has been virtually silenced by the state.

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We echo the “grave concern” raised by United Nations experts, including the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and a group of four U.N. special rapporteurs, regarding the imprisonment and prosecutions of Lai in a formal communication sent to the Chinese government in March 2023, and their call on Chinese authorities to take all necessary interim measures “to halt the alleged violations of (Lai’s fundamental rights).”

Sebastien Lai said he thinks it is “a big misstep” for Sunak and the British government to be “willing to sacrifice [his father’s] human rights for trade [with China].”

“It truly is heartbreaking because this is a man who has decided to give up everything that he has in order to stand up for his principles,” said the younger Lai. “Virtues that we all want to have. Courage and belief in freedom. He’s done that and the [British] government has refused to call for his release.”

“It’s very sad to see a democratic government being afraid – or asking permission even – to speak on behalf of one of its citizens that is in prison for freedom of speech,” Sebastien Lai said back in May. “It’s just ridiculous.”

Also in May, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-WI, criticized the Vatican for not taking action to help Lai, a prominent Catholic. Gallagher chairs the U.S. House Select Committee on the CCP.

“The silence from the Vatican on China’s human rights abuses and Jimmy’s case in particular is deafening,” said Gallagher. “Jimmy Lai’s example shows that the true prison is one built from fear of speaking the truth to the powerful.”

Gallagher is a Catholic and has an “A rating” from the Catholic Accountability Project.

Again from CNA:

The jailed media mogul was the owner of the Apple Daily, which was Hong Kong’s most popular Chinese-language newspaper until it was closed in June 2021 after its offices were raided by hundreds of Hong Kong police and its executives detained. The paper was seen as Hong Kong’s most vocal pro-democracy newspaper.

Lai is one of more than 250 pro-democracy activists who have been arrested under the national security law since it was imposed by Beijing in response to Hong Kong’s massive pro-democracy protests in which nearly 2 million peopletook to the streets in 2019.

The post Catholic Activist in Hong Kong Jail For Nearly 3 Years, Trial in December appeared first on CatholicVote org.

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