Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Thousand Days of Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai

If I suffer for the right cause, it only defines the person I am becoming. It can only be good for me to become a better person. If you believe in the Lord, if you believe that all suffering has a reason, and the Lord is suffering with me ... I’m at peace with it” (Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong democracy activist, former publisher of the Apple Daily, Prisoner of the Chinese Communist Party-State).

Today Jimmy Lai marks 1000 days in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison in Hong Kong. He is presently serving a sentence of five years on trumped-up charges regarding his newspaper supposedly violating a lease agreement, but that’s just a warm-up for whatever Beijing is really planning to inflict on this courageous 75-year-old whose newspaper published the truth about Hong Kong’s struggle for freedom over the past decade.

He still faces charges of “subversion” under Beijing’s “national security law” which the CCP imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 in order to crush the further advance of Hong Kong’s popular Pro-Democracy movement. The Brave New China of Xi Jingpeng uses different tactics to smash those who refuse to conform to its agenda of building a total surveillance society and a neocolonial, neo-fascist commercial empire. Rather than mowing down dissenters with the tanks and guns of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, China’s current Party-state wages “Lawfare.” Beijing has invaded Hong Kong with the implacable hydra-headed monster of its bureaucracy. When the CCP speaks about the “rule of law” what they really mean is that they rule using their “laws” interpreted and administered by their system without public transparency or accountability. Its a 21st century version of old Imperial China’s “death-by-a-thousand-cuts.”

Jimmy Lai has spent nearly three years in prison, waiting for a trial that continues to be delayed—a show trial that is guaranteed to produce another prison sentence that will last the rest of his life. He waits along with hundreds of other political prisoners, including Joshua Wong—the 26-year-old activist who has been fighting for the freedom of his city since he was a teenager in 2012 —and others who may disappear into the notoriously inhuman Chinese prison system that has tortured and brutalized so many dissidents in the past. The world must not forget them.

They will not suffer alone. The young ones, if they embrace the call of interior non-violence—if they refuse to hate their captors, their torturers, and those who hold power—they will be shaped by a freedom that is irrepressible when it lives by love, and one day they will emerge as men and women prepared for leadership, prepared to change their beloved city and all of China. They must endure in hope that China will change, that the nightmare of repression will end. Their suffering will not be in vain. Indeed, the many Catholics and other Christians among them (including Joshua Wong and 2014 Umbrella Movement leader Benny Tai) know this by their faith in Jesus. May He sustain them, and all their compatriots who in suffering for the sake of what is right are carrying out a great work of mercy.

Then there are the elders. Jimmy Lai escaped from Chairman Mao’s dystopian reign when he was a boy, and took refuge in then-British Hong Kong. He worked hard and used his creative energy to build a successful business in the British colony and became a full British citizen. Long a supporter of his wife’s Catholic faith, Jimmy Lai was finally baptized in 1997, within a week after the colony was handed over to mainland rule under an agreement that was full of promises of “autonomy” for Hong Kong. But we know only too well that Leninist fascism always puts the iron grip of Party control first, that it lives by lies and broken promises.

As a British citizen, Jimmy Lai could have easily left Hong Kong when the persecution began in 2020. But he chose to stay, to continue the fight, knowing that for him it might well end in suffering. He finds the grace of courage, and he sees the meaning and value of the road ahead, because he knows in faith that “the Lord is suffering with me.”

[*Digital portrait of Jimmy Lai (above) based on news photograph. Credit to original photo owner—used for educational purposes only in this personal weblog. Art by JJStudios.]