LYON, FRANCE – In a significant gesture of solidarity with press freedom advocates worldwide, the French city of Lyon has conferred honorary citizenship on Jimmy Lai, the detained founder of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, in recognition of his unwavering commitment to free press.
The award was presented on International Human Rights Day (9 Dec), marking a poignant stand by the city against increasing press suppression globally.
A Symbolic Recognition Amidst Continued Detention
Jimmy Lai, who has been incarcerated since December 2020 on charges widely criticized as politically motivated, has been a vocal proponent of media freedom in Hong Kong for over 25 years.
The 76-year-old publisher was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison, with further charges pending under Hong Kong’s National Security Law. His trial is set to commence on December 18.
Sebastien Lai, his son, received the honour on his behalf in a ceremony attended by Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
“This recognition from Lyon is a beacon of hope and a statement against autocracy,” said Sebastien Lai, conveying his father’s gratitude.a
A Broader Stand for Human Rights
Alongside Lai, the City of Lyon also honoured other global figures dedicated to human rights, including Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan, Turkish activist Pinar Selek, the Afghan Girls Theater Group, and the late Gao migrant house coordinator Eric Alain Kamden.
Global Relevance of Lai’s Case
The RSF, an international NGO advocating for press freedom, highlights Lai’s situation as emblematic of the broader threats to free journalism worldwide.
“Lai’s case resonates beyond Hong Kong, underscoring the global implications of silencing independent voices,” remarked Deloire.
Hong Kong’s decline in press freedom is alarming, with its ranking plummeting to 140th out of 180 in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index.
China continues to be the world’s largest jailer of journalists, ranking 179th in the same index.
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