Acton Institute Powerblog

Pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai to receive the 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award

(Image credit: Associated Press)

The entrepreneur’s fight for a free press and human rights in an increasingly authoritarian Hong Kong is recognized yet again, even as he sits in jail for violating the draconian National Security Law. […]

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At the annual International Press Freedom Awards, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will honor Jimmy Lai, longtime Acton friend and outspoken political dissident in Hong Kong, with the 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.

The annual event, set to take place Nov. 18, presents the award to a recipient chosen by CPJ’s board of directors, to honor one who exemplifies “extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom,” the Committee’s press release stated.

“Jimmy Lai is not just a champion of a free press, he is a press freedom warrior. He fights for the right of his Apple News organization to publish freely, even as China and its backers in Hong Kong use every tool to quash them,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of CPJ’s board. “The CPJ board is pleased to honor Jimmy Lai with the 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. And we look forward to the day when we can present that award to him in person,” the press release added.

Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence on charges under Hong Kong’s wide-sweeping National Security Law (NSL). The law, imposed in June 2020, puts into practice Beijing’s intensifying crackdown on all forms of political dissent.

However, Lai’s convictions have remained unappealable in the face of Hong Kong’s intimidating and increasingly authoritarian rule and stifling of human rights in pursuit of absolute control of its citizenry.

The Acton Institute awarded Lai with its 2020 Faith and Freedom Award. In its press release at the time, Acton declared that “Lai’s sterling character in the face of totalitarian adversity deserves all the plaudits we can muster. For that reason, we have awarded Lai our 2020 Faith and Freedom Award.”

After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1995, Lai founded the pro-democracy media group Next Digital Media and its subsidiary news service, Apple Daily, in opposition to the increasing reach of Hong Kong’s government and restrictions on human rights.

Hong Kong authorities took notice of the newspaper’s popularity. This past June, Hong Kong police raided Apple Daily’s headquarters, froze HK$18 million (USD$2.3 million), seized the company’s documents, and forced the newspaper to fold the next week.

Additionally, many Next Digital board members have been arrested on charges under the NSL. Remaining members have resigned in fear of violating the draconian law.

Lai is a living example of commitment to the dignity of the human person. The CPJ’s recognition of his fight to safeguard human flourishing contributes to the effort to continue his struggle to revitalize the rights of Hong Kong’s citizens.

More information on the Gwen Ifill Award and the CPJ International Press Freedom event can be found on their website.

Kara Wheeler

Kara Wheeler is a member of the Acton Institute’s 2021 Emerging Leaders class. She is a senior at Aquinas College majoring in in English and Journalism. She loves to write, partake in any sport she can, and can be found either on the water or in downtown Grand Rapids.