Chairs’ Statement on the Trial of Entrepreneur and Democracy Advocate Jimmy Lai

(Washington)--Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statement on the trial of entrepreneur and democracy advocate Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong—who is being accused under the draconian National Security Law for colluding with “foreign forces” to endanger national security. The charges could carry a life sentence.

“Jimmy Lai is a man of faith and conviction, someone who fervently believed that Hong Kong’s prosperity and vitality were built on the freedoms promised to its citizens. His trial that begins today is a political prosecution plain and simple and another sad example of the Hong Kong government’s increasingly repressive policies. Over the past four years, only authoritarian regimes like Burma and Belarus detained political prisoners at a rate higher than Hong Kong. Charges against Jimmy Lai should be dropped and he should be released with over 1,000 other political prisoners. Failing these steps, the U.S. should sanction the judges and prosecutors involved in this case and other National Security Law related cases, as we have consistently urged the Biden Administration to do. We will continue to demand the unconditional release of Jimmy Lai and all of Hong Kong’s political prisoners and seek ways to raise the diplomatic and reputational costs globally for the Hong Kong and PRC government’s rough dismantling of democratic freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong.”  

Background: The CECC held a hearing in May, 2023 on political prisoners in Hong Kong and threats and intimidation faced by Hong Kongers globally that featured Sebastien Lai’s plea for the international community to advocate for his father’s release. The Chairs also are sponsors of the “Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Certification Act” (H.R. 1103 / S.490) a bill that would require the Secretary of State to determine if the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in the United States merit the privileges and immunities granted to them by the International Organizations Immunities Act.  That bill passed both the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The Chairs nominated Lai for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.