Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has submitted on 28th of May 2021 an urgent appeal to United Nations Special Rapporteurs Irene Khan, Mary Lawlor, and Diego García-Sayán, asking them “to take all measures necessary to obtain the immediate release” of the founder of Hong Kong media outlet Apple Daily and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards laureate Jimmy Lai, 73.
On the same day, Jimmy Lai, was sentenced to 14 months in prison by a Hong Kong court for “organising” an “unauthorised” protest in October 2019. This sentence is added to two other sentences previously handed down for similar charges and brings the total time Lai will serve in prison up to 20 months.
“It’s about time that the international community takes action to stop the judicial harassment of Jimmy Lai and to pressure the Hong Kong government into restoring full press freedom, a principle enshrined in the territory’s Basic Law” says Cédric Alviani, head of RSF’s East Asia bureau, who calls for Lai’s “immediate release, alongside the dropping of all other charges he faces, including the ones for which he bears a life sentence.”
This court verdict is part of a long-lasting judicial harassment campaign against Lai, who has been detained since December 2020. Lai faces five other procedures, including counts of “colluding with foreign forces” and “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces”, for which he risks up to a life sentence under the infamous Chinese National Security Law adopted in June 2020.
Special Rapporteurs Irene Khan, Mary Lawlor, and Diego García-Sayán are, respectively, in charge of the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the situation of human rights defenders, and the independence of judges and lawyers.
Hong Kong, once a bastion of press freedom, has fallen from 18th place in 2002 to 80th place in the 2021 RSF World Press Freedom Index. The People's Republic of China, for its part, has stagnated at 177th out of 180.