Sebastien Lai is in London this week to put pressure on the UK government to fight for his father’s freedom after he was jailed in 2020 and faces life imprisonment on national security law charges in September.
The son of media mogul and British citizen Jimmy Lai, jailed in Hong Kong for allegedly breaking national security laws, has criticised the UK government for failing to speak out against China.
Sebastien Lai, 28, is in London this week to pressure Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for a meeting about his father’s imprisonment after first making a request seven months ago – but hearing nothing back.
He told Sky News that the Americans have done more to raise his father’s case than the British, despite Mr Lai being a British citizen and passport holder.
Mr Lai, 75, founder of pro-democracy Hong Kong paper Apple Daily, has been in prison since December 2020 when he was convicted of lease fraud – normally a civil issue resulting in a fine.
The billionaire became the first high-profile figure to be charged under the newly-imposed national security law for allegedly conspiring and colluding with foreign forces to “endanger national security” – mainly due to pro-democracy statements he made on Twitter.
Jimmy Lai has been charged and convicted of a variety of alleged crimes since first being imprisoned, including 15 months for lighting a candle and saying a prayer at a Tiananmen Square massacre vigil.
He now faces being convicted in September under national security charges for “colluding with foreign forces”, with a minimum jail term of 10 years and a maximum of life.
His son and lawyers believe the outcome will be pre-determined by the Hong Kong government, which they say wants to make an example of him after decades of Beijing targeting him, firebombing his house and offices and threatening him and his family.
With Mr Lai now facing life in prison, where his son admits he could die, his supporters are calling on the British government to speak up against Beijing.
The media tycoon has had a British passport since 1994 after escaping to Hong Kong from China on a fishing boat aged 13 – and it is his only passport.
His son, who has not seen him since he was imprisoned and cannot enter Hong Kong for fear of arrest, is now publicly calling for the British government to step in.
Sebastien Lai said a meeting with junior Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyn this week was very welcome but it was only the first step and more needs to happen.
He told Sky News: “The American government has spoken more about this than the UK government, which is a real embarrassment because my father is a British citizen and he’s currently in prison for standing up for the very freedoms we have in this country.
“There was radio silence before we met the junior minister, that was a step forward but they need to do more, he is a British citizen, a British passport holder.
“I’m very frustrated they haven’t said anything about my father’s case.”
Senior Tory Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Association on China which brings MPs from around the world together to hold China to account, brought Mr Lai’s case up at Prime Minister’s Questions this week.
The PM said Britain should stand up to “Chinese aggression” and his spokesman later called on Hong Kong authorities to stop targeting “pro-democracy voices, including Jimmy Lai”.
But Mr Lai’s son, his lawyers and Mr Duncan-Smith do not think the government went far enough.
The Foreign Office would not give Sky News a comment on Mr Lai’s case, referring us back to Mr Sunak’s words in parliament.
Source: Sky News