Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has lost a great deal. From his news outlet, Next Digital, to his rights as a citizen of Hong Kong, 75-year-old Lai now sits in a prison cell for his pro-democracy activities and may spend the rest of his life in prison under the Chinese Communist Party’s National Security crackdown on dissent of any kind. Yet Lai has not been forgotten—in fact, the Western world is keeping his story alive in a major way.
A bipartisan group has nominated Lai, along with five other Hong Kong freedom fighters, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) nominated six of Hong Kong’s most devoted democracy advocates for the Prize: Jimmy Lai, Cardinal Joseph Zen, civil society lawyer Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, former Stand News editor Gwyneth Ho, labor rights activist Lee Cheuk-Yan, and pro-democracy protester 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 CECC announcement reads. “Through the nomination, the members of Congress seek to honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world.”
Such bravery has not been easy. For months, Lai and his legal team have been fighting both Hong Kong courts and judicial committees in Beijing for the entrepreneur’s fair trial on charges brought under the 2020 National Security Law. The CCP’s repression of civil rights has been far-reaching, with Hong Kong courts cracking down on political prisoners’ access to international lawyers. As a result, Lai’s team has been deprived of key legal advocates, including veteran U.K. lawyer Tim Owen. Jimmy Lai, who has been imprisoned since December 2020, is still awaiting trial.
According to the commission, all six Hong Kongers nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize are “ardent champions of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights and the rule of law.” Even should Lai win the Peace Prize, however, that will not end his legal battles. A Hong Kong court adjourned Lai’s trial in December 2022, with proceedings slated to resume in September of this year.
The Hong Konger, the Acton Institute’s new documentary, tells the story of Jimmy Lai’s heroic struggle against authoritarian Beijing and its erosion of human rights in Hong Kong. It is currently being screened in cities around the world.