Jimmy Lai is the son of a media mogul and British citizen. He was arrested in Hong Kong for violating national security laws.
28-year-old Sebastien Lai is visiting London this week in an attempt to press Prime Minister Rishi Sonak, and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for a meeting on his father’s imprisonment. He made a request seven years ago but was never heard back.
Sky News told him that Americans had done more for his father’s cause than the British, despite Mr Lai being British citizen and passport holder.
75-year-old Mr. Lai was the founder of pro-democracy Hong Kong paper Apple Daily. He was convicted of lease fraud, which is normally a civil matter that results in a fine.
This billionaire was the first to be indicted under the new national security law. He is accused of conspiring with foreign forces to “endanger our national security,” mainly because of his pro-democracy comments on Twitter.
Jimmy Lai was convicted and charged with a number of crimes after being first imprisoned for lighting a candle at Tiananmen Square massacre watch vigil.
In September, he will be convicted on national security charges of “colluding to foreign forces”. He faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum term of life.
His son and lawyers believe that the outcome will be determined by the Hong Kong government. This is after years of Beijing attacking him, setting fire to his home and office, and threatening his family.
His supporters call on the British government not to support Beijing, as Mr Lai is now in prison facing life imprisonment.
After escaping from China in his 13-year-old years, the media mogul has had a British passport ever since. It is his sole passport.
His son, who has not seen him in prison and can’t enter Hong Kong due to fear of arrest, now calls for the British government.
Sebastien Lai stated that meeting with Anne-Marie Trevelyn, a junior Foreign Office minister, was very much appreciated. However it was only the beginning and there is still more to do.
Sky News interviewed him: “The American government has spoken about this more than the UK government. This is an embarrassment since my father is British and he is currently in prison for fighting for the freedoms we enjoy in this country.
“There was radio silence prior to we met the junior minister. That was a step forward, but they need more, he’s a British citizen and a British passport holder.
“I am very disappointed that they have not said anything about my father’s case.”
Senior Tory Sir Iain Duncan-Smith founded the Inter-Parliamentary Association on China, which brings together MPs from all over the globe to hold China accountable. He brought up Mr Lai’s case at Prime Minister’s Questions this Week.
The PM stated that Britain should resist “Chinese aggression”, and his spokesperson later called for Hong Kong authorities not to target “pro-democracy voices” such as Jimmy Lai.
The gradual dismantling of Hong Kong’s law of the land
China has effectively dismantled the international treaty which should have granted Hong Kong some autonomy following its handover from Britain.
The puppet authorities are using new security laws against the resistance to preserve its democracy and freedom movement.
Jimmy Lai was sentenced to several year imprisonment for violating a lease agreement. This is an outrageous sentence that has never been given.
He was given 15 months to light a candle in a vigil for the victims of Tiananmen Square massacre, when the Chinese communist regime killed hundreds of innocent civilians.
He was sent to prison for participating in a demonstration pro-democracy attended by hundreds of thousand of people.
His company was delisted and all assets were taken from him before his trial in the spring.
These judicial excesses should not be allowed in a country that prides itself on the rule of law, but a banana republic.
America and other countries have called Hong Kong to account for the treatment of Mr Lai. They also warned their businesses that it might not be safe to do business there.
British citizens with British passports have been taken and held against their will. Yet, the UK government has been strangely silent about warning its investors or speaking out about the gradual dismantling of Hong Kong’s law and order.
He will be tried on the absurd charge that he “colluded with foreign troops” later in the year.
The Sunak government’s response will then be a crucial test of its willingness and ability to defend values and principles, wherever they may be, and to protect them.
However, Mr Lai’s lawyer, Mr Duncan-Smith and his son do not believe the government went far enough.
Sky News was not given a comment by the Foreign Office on Mr Lai’s situation. We were referred back to Mr Sunak’s remarks in parliament.
‘A Nelson Mandela character’
Caoilfhionn Gallagher from the UK, who is leading Mr Lai’s international legal team, said to Sky News that while it was “baby steps in the right direction”, what the British government needs is a quantum leap.
They can achieve that through bilateral relations.
They must inform the Hong Kong authorities that they won’t continue with business as usual.
“They should look at whether UK companies are safe working in Hong Kong, as any UK company doing business there isn’t safe. Anyone can knock on the door of the national security police for a tweet or a post on Facebook.”
She said that Jimmy Lai was being targeted “as an illustration”, and the message to anyone who dares to speak out about the Hong Kong authorities or Beijing authorities is “keep silent or else you’ll be next”.
“UK seems petrified by Beijing”
Ms Gallagher stated that they are hopeful that the British government will help. She used the example of British Iranian Nazanin ZaghariRatcliffe, her colleague, who was released from Iranian prison last year after the government increased its efforts to assist her husband during his hunger strike.
China has sanctioned Mr Duncan-Smith. He also said that the British government had “done little to nothing” regarding protests against Mr Lai’s arrest.
Sky News’s he said that they are dragging their feet and seem terrified of the Chinese government. However, the Chinese government doesn’t care a damn about them, they do whatever they want.”
“We must warn British companies that Hong Kong is no longer safe under the law. China is trashing it. If we didn’t, China would be very concerned.”