Jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai’s son says it is in Hong Kong’s interest to release him

Lai holds a sign in Geneva demanding her father's release.

Sebastian Lai, son of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, holds a sign calling for his father’s release at the United Nations Human Rights Council on September 27, 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland. REUTERS/Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber Acquire licensing rights

GENEVA, Sept 27 (Reuters) – The son of Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon jailed in Hong Kong, said on Wednesday it was in the former British colony’s interest to free his father and not let him die in prison.

Sebastian Lai, who was in Geneva to take part in a British program on media freedom in Hong Kong, has not seen his 75-year-old father in three years.

“I am optimistic because I believe the Hong Kong government will not benefit from my father’s death in prison,” said Sebastian Lai on the prospect of his father’s release.

“He’s a pro-democracy activist, a publisher, and he’s also an incredibly peaceful man…Now that they’ve taken what he has, it’s just cruel to put him in jail. “

Jimmy Lai is the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily and one of Hong Kong’s most prominent critics of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, including President Xi Jinping.

This week he marked his 1,000th day in a Hong Kong prison on charges related to a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 after months of anti-government protests.

The law provides for life imprisonment, including sabotage, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.

Sebastian Lai – who said his father, who is a British citizen, was not being granted consular access – described his father as someone who always led by example.

“Of course, he’s human. He’s afraid,” Sebastian Lai said. “But he knows he can’t succumb to that fear.”

During Wednesday’s event, China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva pressed countries to boycott it, saying issues related to Hong Kong were China’s internal affairs.

Despite calls for a boycott, the Chinese mission sent a representative to the event, which it said amounted to interference in China’s affairs.

In a separate statement, the Office of the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong accused Britain and the United States of “malicious defamation” of national security laws and “outspoken support for anti-China and Hong Kong-disruptive activist Jimmy Lai.” accused of doing

Rebecca Vincent, Director of Campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, who also participated in the event, welcomed China’s presence.

“The Chinese government, frankly, doesn’t like to hear from organizations like us,” he said. “I hope they take careful notes and report everything to Beijing because they should hear what we have to say.”

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Geneva; Additional reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong; Edited by Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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