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Amnesty for Hong Kongers charged under national security law is being demanded by religious groups

The Amnesty International Hong Kong office is seen after its announcement to close citing China-imposed national security law, in Hong Kong, China. October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

On Monday, a group of Christians and Catholics urged Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to drop charges against media mogul Jimmy Lai and other political activists detained or imprisoned under a national security measure imposed by China.

The news: Outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters, a petition signed by more than a dozen Christian and Catholic groups and leaders was presented to a government delegate.

  • A request for comment from Lam’s office was not immediately returned.
  • Lord Eames, former Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland, and Reverend Alan Smith of St. Albans in the United Kingdom were among the signatories. Mella expressed his hope that the Pope would “add his voice” in speaking out on Hong Kong’s human rights issues.
  • In June 2020, China enacted a broad national security law that makes subversion, collusion with foreign forces, terrorism, and secession illegal and punishable by life imprisonment. More than 160 people have been arrested as a result of the law.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves a news conference after the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, China, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

What’s going on: Authorities are allegedly utilising the law to muzzle criticism and curtail liberties, according to several Western nations and rights organisations.

  • Authorities in China and Hong Kong, on the other hand, claim that the law has restored stability to the financial centre following a year of pro-democracy rallies.
  • Forty-seven pro-democracy activists and former MPs, as well as former media billionaire and China critic Lai, were detained in a huge raid in early 2021, and are among the most prominent national security legislation defendants.
Media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, arrives the Court of Final Appeal, for hearing an appeal by the Department of Justice against the bail decision of Jimmy, in Hong Kong, China December 31, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

What’s important: Although some of Hong Kong’s political and commercial elites, like Lam, are Catholic and pro-Beijing, other Catholics, such as Lai and former law professor Benny Tai, have long been active in pro-democracy and anti-government initiatives.

  • Some observers see Hong Kong’s vast religious liberties and traditions, as well as the rule of law, as one of the last bastions of Britain’s “one nation, two systems” concept, which saw the former colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
  • The Basic Law, a mini-constitution that administers “one country, two systems,” clearly guarantees religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
The catholic priest Franco Mella talks to the media before delivering a letter addressed to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, calling on authorities to drop charges against media mogul Jimmy Lai and other political activists jailed or in custody under the national security law, outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, China, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/James Pomfret
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