Son of jailed Hong Kong activist, US congressman slams UK and Vatican over weak rights

The British son of jailed Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai and a leading US Catholic congressman criticized Britain and the Vatican on Wednesday for not speaking out more strongly against a crackdown on dissent in China.

Speaking at an event in Washington on the human rights situation in the former British colony, Sebastian Loi said self-censorship in Hong Kong was expected as a result of national security crackdowns there, but was a “hypocrisy” some governments were trying to trade on. China has sprung an unexpected surprise.

“We are incredibly grateful that Americans are so much stronger than the British government in these values ​​that we all share. The British government is also incredibly weak,” said Lai, who, like her father, is a British citizen. .

Lai said Britain was not pressing for the release of her 75-year-old father, who founded the now-shuttered pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, who faces charges under Hong Kong’s security law and colonial-era sedition law.

“It is very sad that a democratic government is afraid to speak on behalf of one of its citizens who is in jail for freedom of expression or ask for permission,” Lai said. “It’s ridiculous.”

British Investment Secretary Dominic Johnson said he held a series of meetings with government officials and executives in Hong Kong this week, the first official visit by a senior British official in five years.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said a junior foreign minister, Jimmy Lai, had met with the legal team in January and that the ministry had supported him for some time.

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The Vatican condemned U.S. Congressman Mike Gallagher, chairman of the Select Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’s House of Representatives, for not standing up for Jimmy Lai, a Catholic like himself.

“The Vatican’s silence on China’s human rights abuses, and especially in Jimmy’s case, is deafening,” he said.

The Vatican embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gallagher said it was essential to put human rights back at the center of US foreign policy and find “creative ways to get cracks in the Great Firewall” – a reference to China’s online censorship.

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