America must stand up to China’s crackdown on freedom

IIt’s 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 that. But Lai’s upcoming trial in Hong Kong represents a classic showdown between a tireless defender of freedom and a brutal regime.

One of Biden’s predecessors, former President John Quincy Adams, is often quoted by those who want America to be less active abroad: “America does not go abroad looking for monsters to destroy.” But on the same July 4, 1821, speech – in the previous line, in fact – Adams added that America will always support freedom against tyranny. “Wherever the standards of freedom and independence have been or will be revealed, there will be his heart, his blessings, and his prayers,” he said.

Lai deserves America’s blessings and prayers, and Biden made a mistake in not using the bully pulpit to press for his release. Lai fought for freedom for decades in Hong Kong until Xi’s truculence burned it by throwing him in prison in 2020.

The fake trial that will continue will only show the whole world the reality of Chinese communism and Hong Kong’s position as a place in China that respects natural rights no longer. But strong international protests and shame could convince China to release Lai, who is 74, and let him go abroad.

Lai has been my friend for many years, ever since I was posted to the British colony by the editorial page Wall Street Journal in 1995. I was able to see how he used his position as the last independent publisher of Hong Kong to keep the flame of freedom alive.

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Hong Kong was a British colony for 150 years before colonial rule was handed over to China in 1997. One of the few mistakes former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made was agreeing to this handover in 1984. Communist China, Deng Xiaoping, promised in an international treaty that for half a century after ’97, Hong Kong will retain its political and economic system. It is called “one country, two systems.”

The idea is that, despite belonging to China, Hong Kongers will continue to enjoy the freedoms they have enjoyed under the Brits: freedom of trade, expression, property, association, etc. the richest place on Earth.

Xi has destroyed all that, just as he has destroyed, in the rest of China, all the other norms that emerged in the period after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. In his ruthless bid to become the new Mao, Xi’s Chinese Communist Party has made the country America’s main enemy. on the world stage.

The straw that broke Hong Kong’s back was the national security law that reformed “sedition” and “collusion” with foreign forces and has become a tool for Xi to take control of the territory. Because of this law, Lai
facing three charges
of collusion with a foreign country and one count of sedition. The trial began on December 1.

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Lai does not threaten China’s national security, only the CCP’s lust for absolute power. Both Lai and Xi are obsessed with freedom – Jimmy with expanding it and Xi with crushing it. After all other publications bent the knee to Beijing after the ’97 handover, Jimmy’s Apple Daily the empire continues 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 her home on Hong Kong’s Kowloon Peninsula to other freedom lovers. We gathered there for a dinner that included other journalists and several other personalities, including Hong Kong politicians, church men and women (as well as many Hong Kong pro-democracy figures, including long-time opposition leader Martin Lee and high civil. I was under the Brits, Anson Chan, Lai is Catholic), and sometimes come from abroad.

At his side I met the economist Milton Friedman and his wife, Rose. in
an interview
and Wall Street Journal during that visit, Friedman prophetically said 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 can’t 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 at the Catholic Church in Hong Kong Cathedral. A few years later, he went to my daughter.

On the night the city was handed over to China — June 30, 1997 — my friends and I had dinner at the house of Lai and his beautiful wife, Theresa, then took the Hong Kong subway to Hong Kong city. We then went up to the balcony of the Legislative Council, where Martin Lee, now 84, the founder of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, addressed the huge crowd below. Lee, also a friend, could also be charged.

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

It is for this kind of thinking that China has now taken away Lai’s freedom and why the United States must do everything in its power to regain it.

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Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a writer
BLM: Creating a New Marxist Revolution.


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