Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

Analysis | Trial of Jimmy Lai  : a test for human rights in Hong Kong, according to his son

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The press tycoon and Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves court in a prison van in Hong Kong on February 1, 2021.

  • Philippe Leblanc (View profile)Philippe Leblanc

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Sebastian Lai believes that the trial of his father, the press magnate and defender of democracy, Jimmy Lai, which began on Monday, is a test which will determine what remains of individual freedoms in Hong Kong.

The day before the trial opened, a small group of Jimmy Lai supporters dressed warmly in tuques and wool scarves braved the bad weather in front of the Kowloon courthouse.

The first lady in line had arrived Sunday evening, around 10 p.m. Jolly Chung wanted Jimmy Lai, a leading figure in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, to know that he still has support on the island.

I want to know how the court will handle this case before he loses his fight, she said.

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Tycoon Jimmy Lai is pictured in front of a copy of his Apple Daily newspaper. (Archive photo)

An attitude which says a lot about the expectations towards this trial before three judges appointed by the local government which was to begin in December 2022. Twice-postponed hearings will last 80 days and six former Apple Daily employees who pleaded guilty last year to colluding with foreign forces will be called to the stand to testify against him.

LoadingUnder pressure, the UMQ distances itself from Énergir

ELSE ON INFO: Under pressure, the UMQ distances itself from Énergir< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Jimmy Lai founded the daily critical of the Chinese Communist Party in 1995.

Diplomats, human rights groups and activists are following this trial in the hope that it will be transparent, free and public. Which is practically impossible in Hong Kong since Beijing's imposition of the national security law and the erosion of individual freedoms.

By doing this trial, on the case of my father, Hong Kong is doing this trial on the freedom that Hong Kong had, maintains Sebastian Lai.

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Sebastien Lai, son of Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, posing for photos in a park in Taipei, Taiwan.

Of course, for our family it is very important, but it' is interesting for Hong Kong and the whole world too. Because in fact, Hong Kong was always a test to see how China perceives the rights we have in the free world.

A quote from Sebastian Lai

For example, my father is a journalist, he is an editor. For his journalism he is now in prison. The Hong Kong government always says that we have a free press in Hong Kong, but by putting him in prison and putting his colleagues in prison, it is an action that speaks louder than words, says Jimmy Lai's son.

The 76-year-old media mogul has been in prison for more than 1,100 days. He was arrested in August 2020. Last year, he was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for fraud related to the lease of the Apple Daily newspaper.

Jimmy Lai's trial began two weeks after the conclusion of another major national security law trial, that of the Group of 47.

These 47 pro-democracy activists represent a large portion of the political opposition who participated in a 2020 primary. They are accused of conspiring to overthrow power. The verdict in this trial is expected next March.

Trials related to the enforcement of the national security law in Hong Kong have a 100% conviction rate. In a report published last August, the European Union noted the accelerated erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

The year 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China and the second anniversary of the imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong. The report finds that the erosion of Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, democratic principles and fundamental freedoms that were supposed to be protected at least until 2047 has continued, can we read in the report.

This development casts additional doubt on the #x27;China's commitment to upholding the “one country, two systems” principle.

A quote from Excerpt from the European Union report

The report noted that repressive police services continue to make arrests for reasons of national security. As of December 31, 236 people have been arrested under the law, 145 people and five companies have been convicted.

Furthermore, the harassment of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists in exile is intensifying. Hong Kong authorities are offering rewards for information leading to the arrest of around fifteen of them.

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Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow. (Archive photo)

Young activist Agnes Chow, for her part, announced on her social networks that she had moved to Toronto and She planned to stay there to continue her studies. She had remained under police supervision in Hong Kong since completing her sentence in 2021.

She announced that she had chosen to stay in Canada taking into account the situation in Hong Kong, my personal safety, and my physical and mental health. Several emotional illnesses have put my body and mind in a very unstable state. I was forced to go to mainland China to attend a patriotic exhibition in exchange for the opportunity to study abroad.

The opening of Jimmy Lai's trial reignites calls for resignation from Hong Kong's legal system. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, has been a non-permanent judge of the Hong Kong High Court since 2018.

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Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin. (File photo)

She chose to retain these functions even after the imposition of the national security law. Human rights groups, including Action Free Hong Kong Montreal, argue that her acceptance of a second term in the Hong Kong system means she endorses autocratic rule imposed by Beijing.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">In an interview on the show 24·60, Senator Pierre Dalphond, former judge of the Court of Appeal of Quebec , also calls for the resignation of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

It is clear in recent years that judicial independence under the agreement signed between Great Britain and China is no longer respected. This is why two British judges have already resigned and left the Hong Kong High Court due to their concerns about the end of their judicial independence, explains Benoît Hardy-Chartrand, associate researcher at the Raoul-Dandurand Chair of the UQAM and adjunct professor at Temple University in Tokyo.

In an interview on YouTube earlier this year, Justice McLachlin defended her decision to remain in office. She says the Hong Kong High Court is independent and sitting there is a matter of principle.

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