75-year-old Jimmy Lai is a firsthand witness to the Chinese Communist Party’s dedication to punishing its political enemies. Trapped in solitary confinement, the freedom fighter and former media mogul faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted under the CCP’s National Security Law. As Lai’s case garners international attention, more and more U.S. lawmakers are coming to see the jailed entrepreneur’s story as indicative of the consequences of a reinvigorated Chinese regime.
Forty U.S. senators have co-sponsored a resolution to condemn Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong and the erosion of the rule of law in the region. The pushback against the CCP comes from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with sponsors ranging from Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to Marco Rubio (R-Fla). “The Hong Kong government’s practice of bringing false and politically motivated charges against Hong Kongers like Jimmy Lai … must stop,” said Sen. Jim Risch, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Lai’s status as a cynosure for human rights activists has reached well beyond the United States, with his lawyers and family appearing at the United Nations last week to push for Lai’s freedom on a global scale. On a national scale, however, American lawmakers are realizing that standing up for Lai requires a renewed separation from a CCP-influenced economy like Hong Kong’s. The senators’ resolution urges sanctions on China for its actions against Hong Kong, as well as greater education for American businesses on the ramifications of investing in Hong Kong. In a letter from Sens. Risch and Menendez (D-N.J.) to Biden administration officials, the lawmakers argue that cutting American corporate investments is key to reducing Hong Kong’s political power, citing increased concern about China from American companies like J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, and BlackRock.
American lawmakers and big businesses are realizing that support for Hong Kong is complicity in the CCP’s reign of terror against its people. “There is no longer a meaningful distinction between the PRC and Hong Kong,” lawmakers insist. “The United States should no longer treat Hong Kong differently than mainland China.” Yet the issue is bigger than corporate entities and the bottom line—taking steps to curb Chinese influence is also about standing up for Hong Kong freedom fighters like Lai, whom recent U.S. resolutions have called a “man of integrity and character.” If Chinese influence is allowed to continue in the lead-up to Lai’s September trial, it could mean not only a grave injustice against Lai but also an end to Hong Kong’s freedom and to any opposition to the CCP’s repressive laws.
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 and premiere online at freejimmylai.com on April 18, 2023 at 8pm ET.