Imprisoned Hong Kong newspaper publisher and Beijing critic Jimmy Lai called on journalists to always seek justice after pleading guilty last week to charges of participating in pro-democracy protests in 2019.
“It is our responsibility as journalists to seek justice,” said Lai in a handwritten letter sent to his staff at pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily which published it April 12.
“As long as we are not blinded by unjust temptations, as long as we do not let evil get its way through us, we are fulfilling our responsibility,” he wrote.
Last week the 73-year-old Catholic and two pro-democracy activists pleaded guilty to charges of participating in an illegal march during mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. The plea of guilty came a week after he and six more activists were found guilty in a separate court case over unauthorized assembly.
Sentences in both cases have yet to be handed down.
Other cases facing Lai, who has been in jail for months after being denied bail in another case, include charges of colluding with foreign forces under the new security law.
On April 13, Joshua Wong, another of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists, was sentenced to four months in jail for unauthorised assembly and violating an anti-mask law.
The 2019 pro-democracy protests were spurred by Beijing’s tightening squeeze on wide-ranging freedoms promised to Hong Kong upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 and plunged the semi-autonomous city into its biggest crisis since the handover.
Lai has been vocal in supporting calls for democracy in Hong Kong, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor.”
His repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western governments and international rights groups.
In his letter, Lai said part of his daily routine in prison is reading books, studying the Bible, praying and exercising.
He said that although he sometimes feels a little down missing his family, he is mostly at ease. He appealed to his colleagues at his newspaper not to worry about him.
He said defending freedom of speech is a dangerous job and urged his coworkers to be careful and not to take huge risks. “Your safety is important,” he said.
The media mogul said the situation in Hong Kong is “falling apart before us and it is therefore time for us to stand tall.”
Lai was born to a rich family in mainland China in 1947. His family suffered once the communists took power in 1949, with his mother being sent to a labor camp. At the age of 12 he was smuggled into Hong Kong.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, baptized him in 1997 the same year that the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule.