European Parliament calls for immediate and unconditional release of Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy representatives; condemns multiple violations of press freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong

Today, Thursday 25 April 2024, the European Parliament has unanimously adopted an urgent Resolution concerning Hong Kong. In its final plenary session before the European Parliament elections, MEPs passed the Resolution which raises multiple issues of serious concern about the situation in Hong Kong, the dismantling of rights and freedoms, and the targeting of Jimmy Lai and other peaceful pro-democracy campaigners.

The Urgent Resolution urges the Hong Kong Government to “immediately and unconditionally release” Jimmy Lai, along with Andy Li, Joseph John, Kok Tsz-lun “and all other pro-democracy representatives and activists detained for exercising their freedoms and democratic rights, and to drop all charges against them.”

The Urgent Resolution also “strongly condemns” the adoption of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (SNSO), based on Article 23 of the HK Basic Law, noting that the SNSO “expands the National Security Law (NSL) imposed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and authorises even more radical infringements of basic freedoms and liberties, in breach of the Sino-British and Sino-Portuguese Declarations, the one country, two systems principle, and international human rights obligations.” The European Parliament “urges the PRC and HK to repeal the NSL and the SNSO.” Concerns were also raised regarding extra-territoriality, with the SNSO applying worldwide. The Resolution states that the Parliament, “condemns the targeting of EU-based HK diaspora and of Beijing-critical politicians and public figures” and urges EU Member States to suspend extradition treaties with the PRC and HK and to introduce lifeboat schemes for at-risk HK activists and journalists.

The Resolution also highlights other issues concerning Jimmy Lai’s trial, namely:

  1. The reliance by the Prosecution in Jimmy Lai’s trial upon evidence from Andy Li, despite his evidence having allegedly been obtained through torture, and despite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture having expressed concerns; and
  2. The treatment of RSF’s staff member, “Polish national Aleksandra Bielakowska, who intended to attend Lai’s trial, was detained upon arrival in HK, interrogated and deported.”

Responding to today’s vote in the European Parliament and the passing of this Urgent Resolution, Sebastien Lai said:

“I thank the European Parliament for their ongoing support for my father and the effort to free him. My father has been in prison for over three years for his peaceful pro-democracy campaigning. This Resolution shines a light on the blatant political persecution happening in Hong Kong under the guise of law, and reinforces the international call for my father’s immediate and unconditional release.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, who leads the international legal team for Jimmy Lai and Sebastien Lai, added:

“76-year-old Jimmy Lai has already spent over three years behind bars for speaking truth to power: for his work as a leading figure in the pro-democracy movement, for his journalism and his writing. His ongoing trial makes a mockery of the PRC and Hong Kong’s claims to comply with international law standards. We now face the terrible prospect of a UK national receiving a life sentence and dying in prison for standing up for democratic values and exercising his internationally protected rights. The PRC and Hong Kong authorities must cease their harassment of Jimmy Lai and heed the European Parliament’s call: Jimmy Lai must be released, immediately and unconditionally.”

In international law matters, Jimmy Lai and his son, Sebastien Lai, are represented by an international legal team led by Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, which includes Jonathan PriceTatyana EatwellJennifer Robinson and Sarah Dobbie, barristers at Doughty Street Chambers, London.