Hong Kong: ahead of historic national security trial, RSF calls for the release of publisher Jimmy Lai

On 18 December 2023, Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, a symbol of press freedom in Hong Kong, will face trial under national security charges for which he could spend the rest of his life in prison. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls again for the immediate release of the publisher, who has already been detained for more than three years.

After previous lengthy delays, Jimmy Lai, 76, is scheduled to be brought before the High Court of Hong Kong on charges of “collusion with foreign forces” under the draconian National Security Law (NSL). The trial, which has been already postponed several times by the Hong Kong authorities, is expected to last 80 days - although it is not clear whether this will be consecutive - and will be held without a jury.

“On the eve of this historic trial, it is more vital than ever that the international community stands in support of Jimmy Lai, who has fought his whole life for press freedom and now faces the rest of his life behind bars. We urge the court to abide by the rule of law and dismiss this spurious case, to demonstrate that a justice system independent from the Beijing regime can still subsist in Hong Kong. Jimmy Lai must be released and the persecution of independent media in Hong Kong must cease, once and for all.

Rebecca Vincent
RSF’s Director of Campaigns

Founder of the independent newspaper Apple Daily and RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate Jimmy Lai has been detained since December 2020 in a maximum security jail, and has already been sentenced to five years and nine months in prison on trumped-up charges. For the past 25 years, he has fought to uphold the values of media pluralism and press freedom in Hong Kong.

On 9 December 2023, the French city of Lyon awarded honorary citizenship to Jimmy Lai in recognition of his lifelong fight for press freedom. Prominent publishers and editors around the world, and the wider international public, have joined RSF's global call to #FreeJimmyLai because of the deeply emblematic nature of his case.

RSF has raised alarm internationally not only regarding the press freedom situation within mainland China – which has long held one of the world’s very worst records on press freedom and is by far the world’s biggest jailer of journalists – but also over China’s attempts to export its model of information control beyond its borders. 

Press freedom in free fall

Over the past three years, China has used the NSL and other laws as a pretext to prosecute at least 28 journalists, press freedom defenders and collaborators in Hong Kong, 12 of whom remain in detention, including Lai and six staff of Apple Daily, while the newspaper itself was shut down – a move seen as the final nail in the coffin of press freedom in Hong Kong. What happens to Jimmy Lai, and to the other courageous journalists being targeted in Hong Kong, will have truly global implications.

Hong Kong ranks 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down from 18th place in the span of two decades. China itself ranks 179th out of 180 in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index and is the world's largest jailer of journalists and press freedom defenders with at least 121 detained.


140/ 180
Score : 44.86
179/ 180
Score : 22.97
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