Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, on behalf of Senator Housakos, Senator Omidvar, Senator Miville-Dechêne and Senator Patterson from Ontario — and no doubt many others — I rise to call for the release from prison of Jimmy Lai, a hero for democracy in Hong Kong.
Mr. Lai founded the hugely popular and independent newspaper Apple Daily in response to the Tiananmen Square events. Unfortunately, it was forcibly closed in 2021 by the Hong Kong authorities.
He was arrested in 2020, following his participation in legal pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and has since faced legal warfare. Mr. Lai just spent his seventy-sixth birthday in prison on December 8, held for the last three years on bogus charges brought under the infamous national security law and imposed on Hong Kong by the Beijing government.
Mr. Lai’s next trial is for sedition. It’s scheduled to begin on December 18. It will be tried without a jury by a special group of judges. He faces a life sentence. His ideas are so dangerous for the Hong Kong government that he’s currently being held in solitary confinement in a maximum-security prison.
This is an influential, peaceful man who dared to publish the truth. The free world must stand with Mr. Lai and other champions of media freedom, democracy and human rights.
Last week, I had the pleasure to meet with his son, Sebastien, and his legal team, who came to Ottawa to meet with a few MPs and senators. I met them with Irwin Cotler and Brandon Silver of Montreal’s Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
Let me add that as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, Jimmy Lai is a Catholic who will not be able to, once more, observe Christmas with his family. Despite that, he said:
There is always a price to pay when you put truth, justice and goodness ahead of your own comfort . . . . Luckily God has made this price a grace in disguise. I am so grateful.
Colleagues, for these reasons, on behalf of Senator Housakos, Senator Omidvar, Senator Miville-Dechêne and Senator Patterson from Ontario, today I will introduce a motion identical to the one unanimously adopted in the House of Commons this past Tuesday, calling for Mr. Lai’s release. I hope that we will quickly adopt this motion tomorrow, and send a message to the Chinese government that our entire Parliament stands with Mr. Lai.
Thank you. Meegwetch.