The Hong Kong media tycoon has been in jail since December 2020 and faces a long-delayed security law trial in September.United Kingdom Foreign Minister James Cleverly has revealed that he raised the case of jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai with senior politicians in China and Hong Kong, as the UK again criticised Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the one-time British colony.
Cleverly revealed in the foreword to the UK’s latest six-monthly update on the situation in Hong Kong (PDF) that he had raised Lai’s case with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng earlier this month as well as at the “highest levels with the Hong Kong authorities”.
Accusing the territory’s administration of “deliberately targeting prominent pro-democracy figures, journalists and politicians in an effort to silence and discredit them”, he added: “Detained British dual national Jimmy Lai is one such figure.”
Lai, the founder of the popular but now-closed Apple Daily, is the most prominent democracy campaigner to face trial under the Beijing-imposed security law. He was first arrested in 2020 and was due to stand trial under charges of “colluding with foreign forces” last December.
The UK report, which covers the six months until December 31, 2022, noted that in November, Hong Kong’s highest court ruled UK British barrister Timothy Owen could join Lai’s defence team.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee then appealed to Beijing and Lai’s trial was postponed pending the decision.
On December 30, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) announced Beijing’s “first interpretation” of the security law, the report noted.
This month, Hong Kong passed a law giving its chief executive a veto of any foreign lawyers involved in national security cases. Lai’s trial is due to start in September.
“Actions taken by the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities continue to erode Hong Kong’s social, legal and judicial systems,” Cleverly said.
“Powers once vested in the judiciary have transferred to the Chief Executive. Those facing national security charges no longer have the right to challenge Government decisions in the courts.”
The UK report also noted the recent changes to electoral rules for local elections, which reduced the number of directly-elected seats,