UK foreign minister meets with legal team of jailed Hong Kong media mogul

A Foreign Office minister has met with the legal team of a detained Hong Kong media mogul, Downing Street has confirmed.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for Asia, met on Tuesday with Jimmy Lai’s representatives to discuss the dual-national’s situation.

It comes after lawyers for the jailed Hong Kong newspaper publisher asked for an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, with his team keen for Britain to step in.

Mr Lai founded the now-defunct Apple Daily in Hong Kong but was arrested in 2020 during a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement.

Hong Kong Democracy Protest Trafalgar Square London
China has cracked down on political freedoms in Hong Kong (Yui Mok/PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve been clear the Hong Kong authorities must end their targeting of pro-democracy voices, including Jimmy Lai.

“The British Government will always support rights and freedoms of the rule of law — it is the right and moral thing to do.

“The Foreign Office has provided support to Jimmy Lai for some time and minister for Asia, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has met his legal team today.”

Asked whether further action could be taken, the No 10 official added: “We think that is the right approach at this stage. Obviously, we will keep it under review.”

Mr Lai, who is a Hong Kong and British citizen, is fighting collusion charges under a Beijing-imposed national security law.

The 75-year-old faces up to life in prison if convicted.

Rishi Sunak visit to Leeds
Jimmy Lai’s lawyers have requested a meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Oli Scarff/PA)

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, leader of the team, said Mr Lai’s son was in London this week to call on British officials to protect his father.

His trial – originally scheduled to begin last month – was postponed to September after the Hong Kong leader asked Beijing to make a ruling that could effectively block Mr Lai from hiring a veteran British lawyer, Timothy Owen, to represent him.

A critic of the Chinese Communist Party, Mr Lai is accused of conspiring with others to call for an imposition of sanctions or blockade, or engage in hostile activities against Hong Kong or China.

He also faces a charge of collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, and a separate sedition charge under a colonial-era law that is increasingly used to crush dissent.

Hong Kong was handed over from the UK to China in 1997 with a promise by Beijing to keep Western-style liberties under a “one country, two systems” framework.

But crackdowns in recent years by China on political freedoms have spurred criticisms from Western governments, including the UK’s.