The Overseas Press Club of America condemns the March 31 conviction by a Hong Kong court of Jimmy Lai, founder of Next Digital Media Group, owner of Apple Daily, a pro-democracy publication.
Lai and six former lawmakers, including Martin Lee Chu-ming, a veteran of the democracy movement, were found guilty of organizing and taking part in an unauthorized anti-government protest in 2019, according to the South China Morning Post. Lai was one of the first Hong Kong residents charged under the National Security Law adopted by Beijing and has been detained since December 2020, according to Reporters Without Borders. Press freedom groups say that Lai is being targeted as a result of his role at Apple Daily, which has been critical of Beijing.
The OPC joins with other press freedom organizations in calling for all charges to be dropped against Lai and for his release from prison.
“The OPC has been watching as China reduces press freedoms in Hong Kong and attempts to censor the international press on the mainland,” said Paula Dwyer, the OPC president. “This strategy is wrongheaded. It deprives Americans of the ability to understand what’s happening in Greater China and prevents Chinese people from understanding what’s happening in America and the world.”
“Relations between the U.S. and China are at a difficult point and this type of pressure – on Jimmy Lai, other representatives of democratic freedoms, and journalists – can only make matters worse,” Dwyer added.