The trial of Jimmy Lai shows that no one is safe under Xi Jinping’s regime

The wealthy media tycoon could have left China and lived comfortably in the UK or US – instead he chose to stay and speak out for freedom, democracy and human rights, writes Benedict Rogers. Now he is facing death in prison, we must all stand by him and develop international pressure for his release

Tuesday 19 December 2023 13:25 GMT
Even the ‘Christmas timing’ of Lai’s predetermined trial has likely been picked so our attention is elsewhere
Even the ‘Christmas timing’ of Lai’s predetermined trial has likely been picked so our attention is elsewhere (AFP via Getty Images)

Jimmy Lai is the embodiment of Hong Kong’s story: rags-to-riches, a fight for freedom and a travesty of justice. When he went on trial yesterday, charged with colluding with foreign forces in violation of Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law, Hong Kong went on trial too: its reputation for the rule of law, judicial independence and basic freedoms in tatters. Lai’s case is emblematic of Beijing’s all-out assault on Hong Kong’s civil rights – the dismantling of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and press freedom.

Lai, who turned 76 earlier this month, is very likely to die in prison. Under the National Security Law, he faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in jail, and it is unlikely that the vengeful Chinese Communist Party regime will be lenient.

His chances of a fair trial are zero: the trial itself has been delayed multiple times, he has been denied bail, there is no jury, the judges are handpicked by the regime, and he has already been denied his choice of legal counsel, when the Hong Kong authorities refused to approve British barrister Tim Owen KC.

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