UPDATE 12 August 2020: We welcome the news that Jimmy Lai has been released on bail but remain deeply concerned over the Hong Kong government’s efforts to use the National Security Law to intimidate and silence critical voices in the territory.
English PEN shares PEN International’s concerns that Jimmy Lai, pro-democracy activist and owner of prominent Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, has been detained with eight others on national security charges. Lai’s arrest, which coincides with raids on his media company, Next Digital, and the arrest of his two sons, marks the latest example of the newly enacted National Security Law being used in a manner that disproportionately targets voices critical of the Hong Kong government.
In response to Lai’s detention, Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said:
The arrest of Jimmy Lai is outrageous; it is not only vastly disproportionate to any threat a newspaper might pose to Hong Kong, but goes against everything China agreed to while signing the Joint Declaration with the United Kingdom in 1984, ensuring ‘one country, two systems.’ That basic law is now in tatters; it is profoundly tragic seeing civil liberties in Hong Kong being snuffed out with such ease and the way Hong Kong’s once-admired police force and bureaucracy are capitulating to Beijing. Hong Kong’s independent judiciary must rise to the occasion and release Lai so that he can run Apple Daily, the newspaper he owns, without fear or intimidation, and his journalists, and indeed, all journalists, do what they are meant to do and have been doing – holding the powerful to account and tell the stories that the authorities do not like being told.
PEN urges the Hong Kong government authorities to ensure that the implementation of the National Security Law does not infringe on the right to freedom of speech, of the press and publication, as contained within the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Bill of Rights Ordinance.
Promulgated on 30 June 2020, the National Security Law represents the latest effort by government authorities to clamp down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Critics fear that the broad and ill-defined language used in the legislation will result in the criminalisation of peaceful dissent, causing a significant chilling effect across the territory. Concerns surrounding the implementation of the National Security Law have been shared in statements published by the independent experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.