Hong Kong: RSF urges for release of media founder Jimmy Lai on the second anniversary of his detention
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges for the release of Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily founder and 2020 RSF Press Freedom laureate, who has now been detained for two years in Hong Kong and still faces a life sentence under the National Security Law imposed by the Chinese regime.
"Jimmy Lai, the founder of independent media outlet Apple Daily, has been for 25 years a very vocal defender of press freedom despite the Hong Kong government and the Chinese regime’s incessant persecution,” says RSF East Asia bureau head, Cédric Alviani, who calls on the international community to “build up pressure on the Chinese regime to secure Jimmy Lai’s immediate release as well as the release of all detained journalists and press freedom defenders in China.”
Friday, 2 December 2022, marks two years since the detention in a maximum security jail of Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily founder and 2020 RSF Press Freedom laureate, on count of several charges including national security crime accusations under which he faces a life sentence. Earlier this week, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee left it to Beijing to decide whether Lai is allowed to be represented by the lawyer of his choosing despite this right being already confirmed by the territory’s highest court.
Lai, 75, was already sentenced in 2021 to a total of 20 months in prison for attending four “unauthorised'' pro-democracy protests. He has also been convicted for alleged “fraud” for which he should receive his sentence on 10 December 2022.
In addition to Lai, six former Apple Daily staff members are also detained and face life imprisonment under similar national security charges. On 24 October, RSF launched the #FreeJimmyLai petition calling for the urgent release of Jimmy Lai and the Apple Daily staff.
In the past two years alone, the Chinese regime used the enactment of a National Security Law as a pretext to prosecute at least 23 press freedom defenders in Hong Kong and shut down major independent media outlets Apple Daily and Stand News, while the climate of fear confronting Hong Kong journalists led at least five smaller media outlets to cease operations.
Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has plummeted from 80th place in 2021 to 148th place in the 2022 RSF World Press Freedom Index, marking the index’s sharpest drop of the year. China itself ranks 175th of the 180 countries and territories evaluated.