TIPP: Jimmy Lai and the fate of Hong Kong

Screengrab Jimmy Lai

By TIPPINSIGHTS EDITORIAL BOARD, TIPP Insights

Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy media tycoon, has been sentenced to another five years and nine months in jail. The punishment is for the “breach of the terms of the lease Apple Daily signed with a government company and amounted to fraud.”

Earlier, the 75-year-old media tycoon was sent to prison for twenty months for participating in the anti-Beijing, pro-democracy protests that broke out on the island when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) first imposed its draconian National Security Law.

District Judge Stanley Chan took pains to point out that this was a “simple case of fraud” and that one must not “draw any connection to politics.”

Despite the Judge’s caution, the witch hunt unleashed by the unforgiving Chinese regime on the pro-democracy activists and outspoken critics makes it difficult to turn a blind eye to the blatant, nefarious association between President Xi Jinping’s government and the supposedly “independent” judicial system of Hong Kong.

Beijing may have conveniently turned a blind eye to the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984. While charting the course of Hong Kong’s future, the agreement laid down in writing that the erstwhile British city will continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy. China’s basic policies were to “remain unchanged for 50 years.” Moreover, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution and its judicial system were to remain untouched for half a century starting from 1997.

At the halfway mark, Beijing is throwing away the agreement. President Xi understands that if Hong Kongers continue to enjoy freedoms unheard of on the mainland, they will not welcome the Communist Party with open arms two and half decades from now. Beijing is employing its tried and tested means to maintain its hold by interfering in the elections, imposing draconian laws, meddling in political appointments, suppressing dissent, gagging the media, and curbing rights to protest. President Xi’s men find the “One Nation – Two Systems” model much less appealing in practice than it looks on paper.

Beijing believes that Hong Kong “belongs” to China, just as Taiwan is its “integral” part. The British have long departed. The CCP may do as it pleases. Yet, in the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s note from December 1984, is this sentence, “Britain has the right to raise any breaches with China after 1997. We would not hesitate to do so.”

On this sentiment now hinges Jimmy Lai’s fate. Media tycoon or not, no individual can go up against the Chinese regime and hope to win. Mr. Lai’s son has reached out to the U.K. government, citing that his father holds a British passport. What remains to be seen is whether His Majesty’s men will go toe to toe with the Red Dragon to ensure freedom for one man and possibly save Hong Kong’s fate in the process.

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