UN Experts Call for Jimmy Lai’s Release

United Nations experts have today called on the authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to drop all charges against pro-democracy advocate, writer and media owner Jimmy Lai and release him immediately. “Jimmy Lai’s arrest, detention and series of criminal proceedings over the past few years appear to be directly related to his criticism of the Chinese Government and his support for democracy in Hong Kong SAR,” the experts said.

Mr Lai is currently on trial in Hong Kong under the controversial National Security Law (NSL) and colonial era sedition laws. He is a British citizen, and he has been imprisoned 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. Although initially released on bail, he has been continuously in prison since December 2020. Mr 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. His current trial commenced on 18 December 2023 and is likely to take several months. 

Today’s statement by five UN experts – Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Ms. Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Prof. Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights; and Ms. Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers – comes on the eve of China’s human rights record coming under scrutiny in Geneva as part of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process. 

The UN experts’ statement is available here.

Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai’s son who leads the international #FreeJimmyLai campaign, said:

“I am grateful to the UN experts for speaking out for my dad and calling for his release. These five UN experts are part of an international call for my dad’s freedom which grows louder every day. Governments from the US and UK, the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, and UN experts agree: it is time to Free Jimmy Lai.”

Responding to today’s statement, Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC who leads the international legal team for Jimmy Lai and his son, Sebastien Lai, said:

“We are grateful to the UN experts for their courage in speaking out for Mr Lai at this critical time. Mr Lai is on trial for conspiracy to commit journalism. On trial for conspiracy to raise human rights concerns with human rights organisations. On trial for supporting democratic values with democratic governments. He has already spent over three years in prison for exercising fundamental rights protected under international law. We call on all States to now support the UN experts, and call on the authorities in China and the Hong Kong SAR to release him immediately and unconditionally.”