Jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and former Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai was awarded the 33rd annual Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center on Tuesday.
Lai was awarded the honor for his courage and conviction in exercising his fundamental rights to freedom of speech, non-violent resistance and peaceful dissent.
Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, described Lai as a “freedom hero” in a video of the ceremony held online because of the pandemic.
“You have sacrificed your freedom and well-being to help secure the blessings of freedom for others,” Rosen said.
“And you have rejected the idea that criticism of the government can legitimately be punished as treason, prompting others to continue the struggle for Hong Kong’s independence.”
In 1995, Lai’s company, Next Digital, founded Apple Daily—a widely read tabloid that often criticized the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party. The newspaper was closed in June 2021 after a Hong Kong police raid. Earlier this month, Next Digital announced that it was going into liquidation. The company’s assets had already been confiscated as part of a national security investigation.
Lai was arrested in August 2020 for violating Hong Kong’s new national security law, which was imposed by Beijing mid-last year to crack down on the city’s pro-democracy forces.
The 73-year-old is currently serving a 20-month sentence for “organizing and participating in unauthorized protests”. He is also facing six other charges ranging from “collusion with foreign forces” to “instigating others to participate in unauthorized gatherings”. Under the new national security law, three of the six charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
US diplomat James B. Cunningham, former Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau 2005 to 2008, accepted the Liberty Medal on Lai’s behalf.
“Mr. Lai wants me to point out that he is not important himself, it is the values he represents, and that people in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China struggle to advance the values that matter. Keeps up,” Cunningham said.
“For many of us, it is a tragedy that the rule of law and freedom of thought, education, speech and property are being abolished in Hong Kong at the behest of Beijing. This is not the Hong Kong that I knew and admired when I was the US Consul General there.
Cunningham said that Lai once told him that “his character is to fight for freedom.”
He explained that Hong Kong authorities confiscated Lai’s business and assets without due process anything.
Cunningham said, “His crime is to be “a successful Hong Kong media person who defends freedom of speech, liberty and democratic values in the face of increasing repression.”
Philadelphia Inquirer foreign affairs columnist Trudy Rubin also praised Lai during the awards ceremony.
“Jimmy Lai was the only prominent Hong Kong businessman who had the courage to openly support the pro-democracy movement before and during the 2019 protests,” said Rubin, who interviewed Lai at the student peak in November 2019. The protests, when his paper was at the forefront of pushing for freedom of expression.
“I remember actually being killed by the guts of this man. And he knew better than no one else what was going to happen. But he lay down his neck to fight for Hong Kong and for democracy in the region.” Were ready to bet,” she added.
Lai was also awarded the Freedom of the Press Award by Reporters Without Borders in December 2020.
Another Liberty Medal recipient was Saudi women’s rights activist Louzain Al-Hathloul, who was jailed for nearly three years for campaigning to legalize driving for women in Saudi Arabia. She was released in February 2021, but remains under a number of sanctions.
“Today’s ceremony is no ordinary Liberty Medal presentation. Two of our honorees cannot be with us in person to accept the award,” said Rosen. “Their absence is a powerful reminder of the great personal sacrifices that both To fight for freedom against tyranny.”
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentenary of the U.S. Constitution, to honor men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessing of liberty to people around the world. Of the last 32 Liberty Medals, 15 have been awarded to individuals outside the United States. Seven of the Liberty Medal recipients have also received the Nobel Peace Prize.
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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times