UK foreign minister claims that Jimmy Lai’s issue was brought up with China’s vice-president earlier this month about Hong Kong’s national security statute.

The United Kingdom’s foreign minister revealed on Thursday that he had raised the case of jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who holds a British passport and faces collusion charges in Hong Kong, with China’s vice-president earlier this month.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly reiterated his accusation that city authorities had used the Beijing-imposed national security legislation and the sedition law to “target prominent pro-democracy figures, journalists and politicians in an effort to silence and discredit them” in Britain’s latest six-monthly parliamentary report on Hong Kong.

“Detained British dual national Jimmy Lai is one such figure. I raised his case with Chinese Vice-President Han Zheng earlier this month, and we have raised it at the highest levels with the Hong Kong authorities,” Cleverly said.

In response, the Hong Kong government issued a strongly worded statement on Thursday night, saying it “strongly disapproved” of the report and urged Britain to stop interfering in the city’s matters.

Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng arriving at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles. Photo: AP
Cleverly said Lai, founder of the now-closed Apple Daily newspaper, along with 47 opposition activists charged with subversion over an unofficial primary, among others, would be put on trial under the security law this year.

“Many of these individuals have been held on remand without bail for over two years. Thousands who were arrested during the protests in 2019 are still waiting to learn if they will face trial,” he said.
Cleverly was urged by several groups, including the London-based Hong Kong Watch, to raise Lai’s case with Han during the vice-president’s visit to London to attend King Charles’ coronation earlier this month.
Lai is to stand trial in September without a jury on charges of sedition and conspiracy to collude with foreign forces. The High Court will rule next Monday on whether the national security case will be dropped in response to arguments from Lai’s lawyers over alleged bias towards his conviction.

Cleverly said China remained in “an ongoing state of non-compliance” with the Sino-British Joint Declaration in the latest report, referring to the deal signed in 1984 between London and Beijing which set out the terms of the city’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
“We have stood with our partners in condemning the steady erosion of civil and political rights and Hong Kong’s autonomy. China should uphold all its international commitments, including the Joint Declaration,” he said

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