International nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has initiated a joint petition demanding the Hong Kong government immediately release pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying. The signature campaign to #FreeJimmyLai received support from 116 internationally renowned publishers and editors-in-chief in 42 countries, including Maria Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Philippines online media Rappler, and other well-known executives from the New York Times and the Sun.
In the joint statement, Reporters Without Borders praised the 75-year-old media founder, Lai, for remaining in Hong Kong to defend the vital values of freedom of speech and journalism in the past 25 years, via his now-defunct news agency Apple Daily, despite endless harassment from the government.
The statement called on news media publishers and editors around the world to support Lai, who became an iconic figure in the fight for press freedom in Hong Kong and worldwide.
It also condemned the Hong Kong government’s charges and accusations against Lai and questioned whether it has violated international law, Chinese law, and Hong Kong law.
The reporter protection group demanded the immediate release of Lai and other detained Hong Kong reporters, as well as for all charges made against them to be dropped.
The statement pointed out Lai’s trial was only part of what the Beijing regime did to oppress the freedom of the press in Hong Kong. The international journalistic community also criticized the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to control information outside China.
“When press freedom is threatened anywhere, it is threatened everywhere,” RSF added.
Global editors-in-chief and publishers who support the joint-signature campaign include A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times; Fred Ryan, publisher of Washington Post; Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief at The Guardian (United Kingdom); George Greig, editor-in-chief of The Independence (United Kingdom); and French Publisher Jerome Fenoglio of Le Monde.
Based on the RSF’s Press Freedom Index 2023, released in May 2023, Hong Kong dropped to its lowest rank of 140 among 180 countries and regions.
China is ranked second-to-last at 179.
The Hong Kong government released a statement on May 17, 2023, expressing its strong opposition to using freedom of the press as an excuse to interfere with Hong Kong’s judicial proceedings.
The regime also warned any person or organization in the world that making remarks or acting intentionally to interfere or obstruct the Hong Kong judicial administration would likely put them at risk of committing the crime of contempt of the court or obstructing justice.