America must stand up to China’s crackdown on freedom

meIt is unlikely that President Joe Biden brought up Jimmy Lai’s name in his recent conversation with China’s communist dictator, Xi Jinping. At least the records don’t show it. But Lai’s upcoming trial in Hong Kong represents a classic confrontation between a tireless defender of freedom and a brutal regime.

One of Biden’s predecessors, former President John Quincy Adams, often quotes those who wish America were less active abroad: “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” But in that same speech on July 4, 1821 — in the lines just before that, in fact — Adams said that America would always side with freedom against tyranny. “Wherever the standard of freedom and independence is or will be released, it will be her heart, her blessing, and her prayers,” he said.

Lai richly deserves the blessings and prayers of America, and Biden makes the mistake of not using his bully pulpit to press for his release. Lai fought hard for freedom for years in Hong Kong until Xi’s truculence brought him down by throwing him in prison in 2020.

The sham trial to follow will only show the rest of the world the reality of Chinese communism and that Hong Kong is no longer a place in China that respected natural rights. But a strong international outcry and embarrassment may convince China to release Lai, 74, and allow him to go abroad.

Lai has been a friend of mine for decades, since I was posted to the then British colony at the editorial pages of the Foundation. Wall Street Journal in 1995. I could see how he used his position as the last independent publisher in Hong Kong to keep the flame of freedom alive.

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Hong Kong was a British colony for 150 years before the colonial power handed it over to China in 1997. One of the few mistakes former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made was agreeing to this transfer in 1984. But in her own defence. , was the commander in chief at the time. Communist China, Deng Xiaoping, promised in an international treaty that Hong Kong would maintain its political and economic systems for half a century after ’97. It was called “one country, two systems.” on him.

The idea was that even though they belonged to China, Hong Kongers would continue to enjoy the freedoms they had under the Brits: freedom of trade, opinion, property, association, etc. the richest places in the world.

Xi has torn up all that, just as he has torn down, in the rest of China, all the other norms that came into being over time after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Under his ruthless attempt to become the new Mao , Xi’s. The Chinese Communist Party has made the country America’s new arch-enemy on the world stage.

The straw that broke Hong Kong’s back was a national security law that outlaws “fasting” and “collusion” with foreign forces and was an instrument for Xi to take control of the territory. Because of this law, Lai
face three charges
collusion with a foreign country and one charge of sedition. His trial begins on December 1.

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Lai is not a threat to China’s national security, but rather the CCP’s lust for absolute power. Both Lai and Xi are obsessed with freedom – Jimmy expanding it and Xi pushing it. After all other publications bent the knee to Beijing after the transfer of ’97, Jimmy’s Apple a day The Empire continued to advocate the continuation of Hong Kong’s free way of life. No tyrant can live alongside the free flow of information.

For years, Lai opened his home in Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula to others who had freedom. We met there for a dinner that included other journalists and a range of other people, including Hong Kong politicians, churchmen and women (as well as many other pro-democracy people in Hong Kong, including the longtime leader of the opposition Martin Lee and the chief civil servant under the Brits, Anson Chan, is a Catholic Lai), and the occasional visitor from abroad.

It was on his side that I met the economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose. I
an interview
with the Wall Street Journal during that visit, Friedman said prophetically of the Chinese leadership, “They understand why a free press is important. And that’s one of the reasons they don’t want it. You cannot have a free press and have a centralized authoritarian government.”

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It was also with Lai that I met the heroes of the Tiananmen Square movement and other fighters for political and religious freedom inside mainland China. I went to Lai’s baptism into the Catholic Church at the Hong Kong Cathedral. Several years later, he went to my daughter.

The night the city was transferred to China – June 30, 1997 – I and others had dinner at Lai’s house with his beautiful wife, Theresa, and then took the Hong Kong metro to downtown Hong Kong. We then climbed up to the balcony of the Legislative Council, where Martin Lee, now 84, the founder of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, spoke to a large crowd below. Lee, a friend of his, may also face charges.

Lai’s basic belief is that God made man for freedom. In words I will never forget, he once said: “Freedom is like oxygen. We accept both until someone takes them away. Then the only thing we think about is getting them back.”

It is for this reason that China has now extinguished Lai’s freedom and why the United States should do everything in its power to get it back.


Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and author of
BLM: Making a New Marxist Revolution .


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