Name: Jimmy Lai
Area of Origin: Hong Kong
Background: Notable democracy activist, human rights advocate, and critic of the Hong Kong government and its authorities
Sentence: The length of Mr. Lai’s sentence has not been revealed yet, but he has officially been charged with allegedly colluding with foreign forces under the newly-implemented National Security Law
Reason for his arrest and imprisonment:
Mr. Jimmy Lai, originally born and raised in China, escaped into Hong Kong when he was just 12 years old. There, he was an candid critic of the Chinese government, especially its restrictions on religious freedom and house churches across the mainland. Mr. Lai, a Catholic himself, felt personally connected to this issue.
Mr. Jimmy Lai is a well-known and well-respected Hong Kong democracy activist and protester. He was first arrested along with his two sons by authorities in August 2020 on suspicions of “collusion with foreign forces”. Mr. Lai’s media business, Next Digital, ran a newspaper titled “Apple Daily” which often supported the views and aspirations of the Hong Kong democracy demonstrations, and criticized the Chinese mainland’s government restrictions on religious freedom. He was eventually acquitted of his charges and subsequently released.
Less than half a year later, Hong Kong police officers detained Mr. Lai again, this time on charges of fraud which were related to Mr. Lai’s alleged violations of Next Digital’s building lease. Two other high-up employees at Next Digital were arrested alongside Mr. Lai, but were released on bail not long after. Mr. Lai, however, was denied bail on December 12, 2020 and remains in Hong Kong police custody.
***It is important to note that Hong Kong’s National Security Law, under which Mr. Lai was initially arrested in August 2020, was enacted by the mainland Chinese Communist Party. This new law allows for the CCP to construct its own security office in Hong Kong. Even more concerning is that the law permits criminal cases that took place in Hong Kong to be tried in mainland Chinese courts according to the Chinese judicial system, which is fraught with corruption and known to imprison political and religious dissidents and freedom fighters.***
Current status, as of December 2020:
On 16 December, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Johnnie Moore officially adopted Mr. Jimmy Lai through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Below are Commissioner Moore’s remarks on the case:
“Communist China must immediately release Jimmy Lai along with Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and others who it has detained in Hong Kong for their advocacy of democracy, human rights, and religious freedom. A proud and strong nation has nothing to fear from the criticism of its citizens. The abysmal human rights and religious freedom record of China is incompatible with its national ambition. This is the real threat to China – not its own citizens. In the meantime, the world must speak with one loud and united voice against these atrocities. I raise my voice for Jimmy Lai and all those like him.”
Image from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)