RSF submits evidence to UK inquiry into the case of Hong Kong’s media founder Jimmy Lai

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has submitted expert evidence to a UK parliamentary inquiry into media freedom in Hong Kong and the case of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai. RSF urged the UK government to enact all possible measures to secure the release of Lai and other detained journalists and to press for concrete improvements to the rapidly deteriorating media freedom climate in Hong Kong. 

On 22 March, RSF’s UK bureau director Fiona O’Brien appeared as a witness before the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hong Kong to give oral testimony about the state of media freedom in Hong Kong. The APPG launched the inquiry in response to a sharp decline in media freedom in the territory, including the imprisonment of Lai, founder and publisher of Apple Daily.

A draconian National Security Law, adopted in June 2020, has been used to give the veneer of legality to the arrest, detention and sentencing of journalists and press freedom defenders, and to create an atmosphere of fear aimed at silencing all media critical of the Chinese regime. Lai, a 75-year-old British citizen and 2020 RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate, has been detained since December 2020 under multiple arbitrary charges, and faces life in jail.

"The press in Hong Kong has fallen victim to China’s relentless campaign to stamp out all criticism of its worldview. The fact that Jimmy Lai could see out his life in jail on utterly spurious charges is deeply troubling, and emblematic of China’s increasingly bold contempt for the rule of law. We call on the UK government to demand his immediate release, and that of all other journalists and press freedom defenders arbitrarily jailed in Hong Kong.

Fiona O'Brien
UK Bureau Director

The National Security Law and other laws have been used to prosecute at least 28 journalists and press freedom defenders in Hong Kong over the past three years, 13 of whom are currently detained. At least seven independent media have ceased to exist, two forcibly closed including Apple Daily and others ceasing operations because of the repressive climate. 

In its submission, RSF recommended that the UK government exhort the Hong Kong authorities to end all legal harassment and intimidation of journalists, to restore full editorial independence at the territory’s public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, and to stop impeding the work of foreign reporters. 

The results of APPG inquiries are often used to advise the government, though the cross-party groups do not have official status within parliament. 

Hong Kong, once a stronghold of press freedom, plummeted to 148th place in the 2022 RSF Press Freedom Index from 80th place in 2021, the Index’s sharpest drop of the year. China itself ranks 175th of the 180 countries and territories evaluated.

Read RSF’s written evidence to the APPG here
140/ 180
Score : 44.86
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