Jimmy Lai marks a thousand days in prison for calling for democracy in Hong Kong

Jailed on 31 December 2020, Lai will go on trial under the national security law on 18 December after repeated postponements. His son Sebastian is concerned about his health. A group of 67 human rights organisations write to Biden asking him to bar Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee from attending the upcoming APEC summit in San Francisco without Lai’s release. Jailed Lee Cheuk-yan's sister-in-law also goes on to trial for perverting the course of justice.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Today marks a sad anniversary: a thousand days in prison for businessman Jimmy Lai.

Her was jailed for supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. His newspaper, and his newspaper, the Apple Daily, was forced to close by Chinese authorities after they imposed a draconian national security law.

Baptised by Card Joseph Zen, Jimmy Lai, 75, has been in prison awaiting trial since 31 December 2020, exactly a thousand days ago.

Those who have met him since say that, inside, he has found solace in reading the Bible. In the meantime, after repeated postponements, his main trial, on violating the national security law, is set to start on 18 December.

The Apple Daily ceased publication in 2021 after its bank accounts were frozen and 500 police officers raided its offices.

A thousand days behind bars for crimes of opinion gave the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (CFHK) an opportunity to put the spotlight on his story and on the fate of other leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

The CFHK, an umbrella organisation of 67 human rights groups, published an open letter to the President of the United States Joe Biden, urging him to take action to secure Jimmy Lai’s immediate release.

It also calls on him not to invite Chief Executive John Lee and other Hong Kong officials to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco on 15-17 November, as well as impose sanctions against Hong Kong officials and prosecutors who have abused their powers under the anti-democratic law.

“Since Beijing imposed the NSL in Hong Kong on June 30, 2020, it has been broadly and arbitrarily applied in arresting 264 individuals for national security crimes, including Jimmy Lai. In court cases to date, the government boasts a 100% conviction rate,” the letter states.

Jimmy Lai’s son Sebastian said that he was alarmed by his father’s conditions, openly expressing fear that he could die in prison.

Sebastian Lai also slammed British authorities for their “shameful” failure to help his father who, like many  people in Hong Kong, is a British national. On the one hand, the UK says it supports Jimmy Lai’s legal battle; on the other, it continues to do business with Hong Kong and China as if nothing happened.

In fact, in Hong Kong, the courts continue to crack down on pro-democracy advocates and their families.

Six months after Maria Tang, 63, was detained and released on bail, the National Security Department formally charged her for perverting the course of justice.

She is the sister-in-law of activist Lee Cheuk-yan (also jailed under the national security law) and sister of trade union leader Elizabeth Tang, who was also arrested and released a few days later in March, after visiting her detained husband.

Maria Tang's case is expected to go before the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts on Thursday.