The court also rejected Lai’s request to halt the trial due to concerns that his case would be heard by three government-approved judges rather than a jury as practiced under Hong Kong’s common law tradition.
Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai’s son, has not seen his father in three years and worries for his health as his father suffers from diabetes and was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2021 while in prison.
Lai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize along with Cardinal Joseph Zen and other Hong Kong democracy advocates by the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China in February.
He was also the recipient of the Christifidelis Laici award at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, the Freedom of Press Award by Reporters without Borders, and an honorary degree from Catholic University of America.
Lai was born in Guangzhou in mainland China in 1947 but came to Hong Kong at age 12 as a penniless stowaway. After working in a factory in Hong Kong, Lai saw a need for affordable, quality clothing for middle-class people and founded a chain of clothing stores called Giordano’s — a venture that would make him rich and allow him to launch pro-democracy magazines and newspapers in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
He was baptized and received into the Church by Cardinal Zen on July 7, 1997, at the age of 49. Before his conversion, the billionaire entrepreneur attended Mass with his wife, Teresa, whom Lai said had always been a devout Catholic. But in 1997, just before the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China, Lai said that he realized that he needed the protection and help of a higher power.
At a time when many pro-democracy activists fled Hong Kong out of fear of the National Security Law, Lai chose to stay. He urged Hong Kongers on social media: “Let us not be afraid and fight on!”
“The way I look at it, 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,” Lai said in an interview with the Napa Institute after his arrest in 2020.