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Jimmy Lai Must Be Supported

January 2, 2021

This blog has been critical of the Trump administration for not being far more vocal and proactive concerning a required denunciation of China’s repressive handling of Hong Kong following pro-democracy efforts in that city. Now there is another high-profile reason for the international community to be engaged as a well-regarded advocate for change is being threatened.

While most of the world was welcoming the New Year Hong Kong’s highest court revoked media tycoon Jimmy Lai’s bail after prosecutors succeeded in asking the judges to send him back to detention. That was not only dreadful, but also telling in how far mainland China will go to further its reach and power.

Lai had been granted bail on December 23 after three weeks in custody on charges of fraud and endangering national security. The court said last week that it was “reasonably arguable” that the previous judge’s decision was erroneous and that the order of granting bail was invalid.

Here is the rub, however. Lai is among a string of pro-democracy activists and supporters arrested by Hong Kong police in recent months as authorities step up their crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The Chinese state-owned newspaper People’s Daily posted a strongly worded commentary criticizing the court for granting bail to Lai, stating that it “severely hurt Hong Kong’s rule of law.”

The legal system in Hong Kong was always seen as a buttress in support of the fragile components of that city’s cling to democratic ideals. Should China erode and damage that system, as it is making every effort to do, it would be a most dreadful outcome for the ones who have fought so hard for a better future there.

The charge of collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Should Lai be taken to the mainland for prison his life might very well be over.

The world community should step up and make sure the abuses being fostered by China are not only called out, but demands must be made for them to be reversed.

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