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Hong Kong terms Jimmy Lai’s release call slanderous

Rights groups wanted US President Joe Biden to ask for the 'immediate and unconditional release' of Lai
Millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai poses during an interview with AFP at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong, a month before he was arrested on Aug. 10 under Beijing's new national security law.

Millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai poses during an interview with AFP at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong, a month before he was arrested on Aug. 10 under Beijing's new national security law. (Photo: AFP / UCAN files)

Published: September 28, 2023 10:53 AM GMT
Updated: September 28, 2023 11:29 AM GMT

Hong Kong’s Beijing-controlled government has condemned comments made by a forum of overseas rights groups, seeking the release of pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai, on his 1,000th day in custody.

The government “condemned and opposed the misleading and slanderous remarks by various overseas organizations and media against the law enforcement actions and legal proceedings” in Hong Kong linked to Jimmy Lai, said a Sept. 26 government statement.

The government said allegations leveled against it are “misleading and slanderous,” the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported on Sept. 27. Such moves are also an interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, it added.

The government was responding to a letter issued by the Washington DC-based rights group, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation on Sept. 25.

Around 67 other rights-related groups signed the letter addressed to US President Joe Biden urging him to call upon Hong Kong for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Lai.

The rights group had urged Biden to hold Hong Kong’s top officials including Chief Executive John Lee accountable for the “unjust imprisonment of Jimmy Lai and other political prisoners in Hong Kong.”

The group also alleged that Hong Kong’s judges and prosecutors had “abused” the city’s legal system to “undermine the city’s freedoms.”

The group wanted Biden to ensure that Lee and other Hong Kong officials are not invited to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco this November.

They further urged the US to “issue sanctions against the Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong.”

Lai, a Catholic and the founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily was first arrested under the national security law on suspicion of “colluding with foreign forces” in early August 2020.

He was further accused of fraud related to a lease violation at the Apple Daily’s headquarters and was formally charged in December 2020.

He was found guilty of fraud last December and jailed for five years and nine months.

Lai’s national security trial is now expected to begin in December.

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