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US panel nominates Cardinal Zen, Jimmy Lai for Nobel

The six nominees announced by the parliamentary commission on China are 'ardent champions' of human rights in Hong Kong

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia's highest-ranking Catholic clerics, attends Mass at the Holy Cross Church in Hong Kong on May 24, 2022

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia's highest-ranking Catholic clerics, attends Mass at the Holy Cross Church in Hong Kong on May 24, 2022. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP)

Published: February 03, 2023 12:48 PM GMT

Updated: February 03, 2023 01:02 PM GMT

A parliamentary commission on China in the United States has nominated six pro-democracy campaigners of Hong Kong including outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen and jailed Catholic media tycoon Jimmy Lai for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China announced the nomination in a press statement on Feb. 2, hailing the nominees as “ardent champions” of human rights and rule of law in the city.

The other nominees are Tonyee Chow Hang, Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Joshua Wong.

“The nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China,” the statement read.

The US Congress created the congressional commission in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China.

The bipartisan, bicameral commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President.

Senator Christopher Smith (Republican) chair and Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat) cochair of the commission along with senators James P. McGovern (D) and Marco Rubio (R) former chairs of the commission proposed the nominations.

Through the nominations the commission aimed to “honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world,” the statement read.

The nomination from the US senators come right after a group of 15 academics in an open letter had nominated Chow, Ho, Lai, Lee, and Wong for the Nobel Peace Prize on Jan. 6.

“The five we are nominating symbolize the hopes not only of millions of Hong Kong people who are worried about the fate of their city but also of countless people on the China mainland who cannot express their views,” the letter signed by the academics read.

“The principles they are acting upon undergird human rights and human dignity everywhere, and their voices emerge at a time when human rights and dignity are coming under ever-greater pressure around the world,” the letter further read.

Rights activists across Hong Kong have been persecuted since Beijing imposed the draconian National Security Law in the city-state in 2020 following the massive, oft-violent pro-democracy protests of 2019.

In November 2022, Cardinal Zen and five others were fined HK$4,000 (US$500) for failing to properly register a now-defunct humanitarian fund as a society. The fund had helped pay legal and medical costs for people arrested during the 2019 unrest.

The fund disbanded in October 2021 after national security police demanded its operational details, including information about its donors and beneficiaries.

Jimmy Lai, the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily, was accused of colluding with foreign forces under the Beijing-imposed national security law and producing allegedly seditious publications under the colonial-era sedition law.

He is currently serving a sentence of five years and nine months for fraud over violating the leasing terms of his newspaper’s office complex.

Among the other proposed nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize Wong had organized successful movements to resist the erosion of cultural and political autonomy in Hong Kong.

He was previously imprisoned in connection with protests during the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

Upon his release in June 2019, he joined protests to resist a bill that could authorize the extradition of criminal defendants from Hong Kong to mainland China.

He has been sentenced for joining unauthorized assemblies and is being charged with a national security offense.

Chow is a licensed barrister and was vice-chair of a now-shuttered civil society group.

Authorities charged and convicted her for inciting others to join annual vigils commemorating the mass killings during the pro-democracy Tiananmen protests in 1989.

Ho is a journalist who live-streamed and was injured in a July 2019 mob attack in Yuen Long, a town in the New Territories. Reportedly, the police’s delayed response led to widespread accusations of collusion between authorities and gang members.

She is being detained on a national security charge for peacefully participating in an opinion poll ahead of an election.

Lee is a veteran labor rights advocate and former legislator.

He has been sentenced for joining unauthorized assemblies and is facing additional criminal allegations on national security grounds.

According to The Nobel Foundation, the peace prize awarded yearly honors those who have promoted “the right to criticize power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”


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