Son of Hong Kong democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai is ‘hopeful’ after his first meeting with Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron

Sebastien Lai, whose father Jimmy Lai, 76, is due to go on trial under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law on 18th December 2023, met with the new Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, on Tuesday 12th December 2023.

Jimmy Lai, a British citizen, has been in prison for over three years, since 2020. He was initially arrested and the offices of the newspaper he owned, Apple Daily, searched by police in August 2020, under the National Security Law imposed by Beijing earlier that year. Although initially released on bail, he has been continuously in prison since December 2020. Jimmy Lai is a high-profile supporter of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, a writer, publisher, and owner of Apple Daily, once Hong Kong’s most popular independent Chinese-language newspaper. 

Jimmy Lai has faced a barrage of criminal prosecutions as a result of his work as a peaceful pro-democracy campaigner, writer and publisher. The charges he faces under the draconian National Security Law carry the heaviest penalty: he faces life in prison if convicted by the Hong Kong court, in a trial which is expected to last several months and has already been widely condemned for failing to meet international standards.

Sebastien Lai was accompanied at the meeting with the Foreign Secretary by Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, the barrister at Doughty Street Chambers leading the international legal team for Jimmy Lai and Sebastien Lai. 

Also in attendance was Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State for the Indo-Pacific, who previously met Sebastien Lai and members of the international legal team in September 2023, along with Foreign Office officials.

Speaking after the meeting, Sebastien Lai said:

I’m grateful Lord Cameron found the time to meet me at such a crucial time, with my Dad’s trial due to start in a few days.

I feel reassured to have heard directly from the Foreign Secretary that my Dad’s case is a priority for the UK government.

I understand why Lord Cameron was unable to make any immediate commitments, but I left the meeting feeling hopeful that the UK will shortly add its voice to calls for my Dad’s immediate and unconditional release. It really gave me hope that I will see my Dad again soon.”

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC added:

Jimmy Lai has already spent three years in prison for his journalism and his peaceful pro-democracy activities. He is now being prosecuted for illegitimate reasons, under an unfair law, and in a broken legal system. He needs the UK Government to do all they can to secure his freedom. This meeting with Lord Cameron is a welcome development. Now we wait to see how Lord Cameron and the UK Government will respond to our requests.

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

Jimmy Lai

(Pictured left to right: Sebastien Lai and David Cameron) 

Photograph courtesy of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office