European Parliament urges Hong Kong government to release Jimmy Lai
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) commends a much-needed resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 15 June 2023, urging the Hong Kong government to release Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai.
On 15 June 2023, the European Parliament adopted with a landslide majority (483 out of 534 present Members of the European Parliament voting in favour) the resolution calling on the Hong Kong government to “immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against Jimmy Lai.” The 75 year-old British national, and laureate of RSF’s Press Freedom Prize, has been detained under trumped-up charges since December 2020, and is currently facing a possible life sentence under the National Security Law, with his trial scheduled to start on 25 September 2023.
In the resolution, the European Parliament more broadly condemned the crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong by calling on the authorities “to stop impeding the work of all journalists,” as well as to repeal the National Security Law.
“In highlighting the Hong Kong government’s persecution of detained publisher Jimmy Lai, the adoption of this resolution is an important step by the European Parliament to address the decline of press freedom in the territory. It is now paramount that all democracies and international organisations that support democratic principles build up pressure on the Chinese regime to restore full press freedom in Hong Kong and mainland China.
On 16 May 2023, RSF launched an unprecedented coordinated call gathering 116 prominent media leaders from around the world, including two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, expressing their support for Jimmy Lai and calling for his immediate release.
Since the enactment of the National Security Law in June 2020, in line with Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s crusade against the right to information, the Hong Kong government has prosecuted at least 28 journalists and press freedom defenders and forcibly shut down two major independent media outlets, Apple Daily and Stand News, while the climate of fear led at least five smaller media outlets to cease operations – moves that served as devastating blows to media pluralism in the territory.
Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down the rankings from 18th place in just two decades. China itself ranks 179th of the 180 countries and territories surveyed.