Religion & Liberty Online

Hong Kong public librarian suspended by Chinese Communist Party for promoting works by Jimmy Lai

(Image credit: Associated Press)

The suspension of a librarian by the Chinese Communist Party for featuring works by journalist and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai is the latest attack on freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

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What does absolute control look like in Communist China? It looks like an unnamed Hong Kong librarian at the Shek Tong Tsui Public Library being suspended from her job after placing 10 of Jimmy Lai’s works on the “Librarian’s Choice” shelf in late June.

Jimmy Lai, founder, owner, and contributor to Apple Daily, is currently serving a 14-month prison sentence in Hong Kong. Lai was convicted in April for taking part in unauthorized assemblies during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. (Lai has been recognized by the Acton Institute as a defender of free speech and was the recipient of Acton’s 2020 “Faith and Freedom Award.”)

The books the librarian shared were not even political in nature; they were thoughts on business management and his auto-biographies. Still, the reminder of Jimmy Lai was enough for the Chinese Communist Party to forcibly suspend the employee.

The Leisure and Cultural Services (LCSD) of the CCP launched a rigorous investigation after Yeung-Hok-ming, a member of Pro-Beijing Democratic for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kojg (DAB) posted pictures of the “Librarian’s Choice” shelf on his social media account. From their investigations, the LCSD came to the conclusion to purposefully maintain the anonymity of the suspended Public Library employee.

The spokesman for the LCSD stressed libraries must comply with the National Security Law. On a more strict and controlled level, “the LCSD will seriously handle any collections that are suspected of breaching the law and suspend the services of the relevant books,” the spokesman stated.

The example of the unnamed librarian and countless others serves as a reminder that Chinese citizens will never cease in their quest for freedom as long as the Chinese government continues their quest for absolute control; the fight of Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy advocates is and continues to be a conglomerate of different stories of struggle.

Jimmy Lai imparted a legacy and a memory for the Chinese people. His memory is a sobering and frightening reminder to the state that there is still a chance they could lose control. If a glimmer of hope for freedom from coercion of the omniscient government remains, the CCP will remain in fear. His example is one that instilled hope in others who hold onto the belief that a democratic society best enables human dignity to exist and thrive.

The only way a communist regime maintains power, is by thwarting the individual liberty of each and every citizen they control. From a simple public librarian employee to the face of an influential, multi-millionaire media tycoon, the CCP will cease at nothing to censor and control the lives of Chinese citizens, until absolute control is theirs.

The United States must publicly acknowledge the courage of the Chinese people and the heinous treatment they have suffered. Their fight must be a catalyst for our reaction; the resurfacing of America’s fundamental conviction that life and liberty as inalienable human rights, both nationally, and globally. The struggle of free-speech advocates and pro-democracy supporters like Jimmy Lai and the unnamed librarian, reminds us that human dignity necessitates freedom.

Kara Wheeler

Kara Wheeler is a member of the Acton Institute’s 2021 Emerging Leaders class. She is a senior at Aquinas College majoring in in English and Journalism. She loves to write, partake in any sport she can, and can be found either on the water or in downtown Grand Rapids.