New York, December 15, 2023 – The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Hong Kong authorities to release publisher Jimmy Lai ahead of the scheduled start of his national security trial on December 18. The 76-year-old Lai could be jailed for life if convicted.
Lai, a British citizen and founder of the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, has been behind bars since December 2020 and is due to be tried on charges of foreign collusion under the national security law – imposed by Beijing three years ago – that has been used to stifle free speech and crush dissent in the city, once a bastion of press freedom in Asia.
“The trial is a travesty of justice. It may be Jimmy Lai who is in the dock, but it is press freedom and the rule of law that are on trial in Hong Kong,” said Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, on Friday. “The government is pulling out all the stops to keep Lai behind bars. This is a dark stain on Hong Kong’s rule of law and is doing a disservice to the government’s efforts to restore investor confidence.”
The start of the trial has been postponed multiple times, and it will be held without a jury. The Hong Kong government has prevented Lai’s choice of counsel, British lawyer Timothy Owen, from representing him and a court in May upheld the decision.
Lai received CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award in 2021 in recognition of his extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom.