Commentary on Political Economy

Sunday 13 December 2020


Hong Kong’s Freedom Fighters - the Pope Says Nothing...

Jimmy Lai is charged under a security law for criticizing China.

Jimmy Lai pauses during an interview in Hong Kong, July 1. PHOTO: VINCENT YU/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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China continues to arrest and punish Hong Kong’s brave freedom fighters, and it’s important that the world not forget them. The Trump Administration is speaking up, and let’s hope the Biden crowd does too.

Hong Kong police said Friday that Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy publisher who has written for these pages, has been charged under a new national security law. Police said Mr. Lai had colluded with foreign forces without providing any details. His real offense is that he has criticized the Beijing government and endorsed foreign sanctions for its assault on the autonomy China promised Hong Kong in its treaty with the U.K.

Opinion: Potomac Watch

Any dissent now is a crime in the city. The national security law allows a defendant to be tried in secret or transported to Chinese courts and jail. The political pressure from Beijing will be enormous on Hong Kong’s courts, which are supposed to be independent, to convict Mr. Lai. A bail hearing was scheduled for Saturday for Mr. Lai, who is 72 years old.

Meanwhile, the Journal reports that Hong Kong democratic activist Sixtus Leung is seeking asylum in the U.S. Mr. Leung, who is 34, was elected to the city’s legislature in 2016 but was disqualified after a ruling from Beijing. He has advocated self-determination for Hong Kong, which would also put him on Beijing’s target list for violating the national security law.

Bloomberg News reports that Chinese security officials have also detained Haze Fan, a Chinese staffer in Beijing, without explanation. Most foreign publications operating in China employ expatriates and Chinese nationals. Chinese citizens are especially vulnerable, and the arrest could be intended to intimidate other Chinese to stop working for Western publications.

This is all part of the Communist Party’s ferocious effort to stop all criticism—at home and abroad. China monitors citizens who study or work overseas, and it has set up influence campaigns through its Confucius Institutes at college campuses. The Trump Administration has called out these tactics and in recent days the State Department has ended China-sponsored junkets by U.S. officials that are no more than propaganda campaigns.

This is welcome, and China will be lobbying the Biden team to drop all of this in return for a climate deal. In a positive sign this week, Jake Sullivan, who will be national security adviser, tweeted his concern about the Hong Kong arrests and said he’s ready “to help those persecuted find safe haven.” Good show, and we suggest the U.S. issue them all visas and green cards.


WSJ Opinion: The Vatican’s Silence Over Jimmy Lai and China
Main Street: Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai goes to jail—and Pope Francis says nothing. Images: Reuters/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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