US State Department slams ‘spurious’ Jimmy Lai fraud conviction in Hong Kong

Under US policy, Washington determined in 2020 that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from Beijing because of the national security law.

Price said the move against Lai “undermines” China’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was supposed to guarantee Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” after the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

“We urge PRC authorities to restore respect for press freedom in Hong Kong, where a once-vibrant independent media environment has all but disappeared,” Price said.

“Efforts to stifle press freedom and restrict the free flow of information undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and hurt Hong Kong’s credibility as a business and financial hub.”

Price’s statement followed separate criticism from a bipartisan group of US lawmakers, who warned that the Chinese Communist Party was using “bogus” fraud charges to “smear Mr. Lai’s reputation and justify an additional sham national security law trial in December”.

Fraud is punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment in Hong Kong, but capped at seven years at the District Court.

Lai is currently remanded in the maximum-security Stanley Prison awaiting a collusion trial under the national security law.

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