Lee also helped to draft the “Basic Law,” or constitution, of Hong Kong.
Norwegian Conservative Party members Mathilde Tybring-Gjedde and Peter Frolic nominated Lee for the prize, calling the lawyer “a source of inspiration for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and advocates for freedom around the world.”
Hong Kong police arrested Lee, along with 14 other pro-democracy protestors, on April 18, 2020. Lee was arrested for taking part in protests in 2019 against an extradition bill— now withdrawn— which would have allowed the Chinese government to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong to the mainland to stand trial.
Lee is currently out on bail with a trial set to begin Feb. 16.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. Hong Kongers largely enjoy freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.
Millions of citizens of Hong Kong, including many Catholics, have in recent years participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which came to a head during summer 2019. Beijing has in recent years tightened control over the island territory and cracked down on dissent.
A new “National Security” Law for Hong Kong went into effect July 1, 2020, imposed directly by Beijing. It has been criticized as being overly broad on its definitions of terrorism, sedition, and foreign collusion.
Under the law, a person who is convicted of the aforementioned crimes will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.
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During August 2020, several prominent democracy activists were arrested and charged, including Agnes Chow, a 23-year-old Catholic democracy activist. Chow has been outspoken in her support for civil rights in the former British colony.
Also among those arrested in August was Jimmy Lai, a Catholic media executive who has supported the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for the past 30 years. A band of nearly 200 police officers arrested Lai Aug. 10, along with at least nine others connected to Apple Daily, the newspaper Lai founded in 1995.
Following those arrests, apostolic administrator Cardinal John Tong Hon wrote to local clergy, warning them against mentioning politics in their homilies, according to Apple Daily.