The Nov. 1 petition of the Catholic bishops called for the immediate release of Lai, stating: “There is no place for such cruelty and oppression in a territory that claims to uphold the rule of law and respect the right to freedom of expression.”
“In standing up for his beliefs and committing himself through his faith to challenge autocracy and repression, Jimmy Lai has lost his business, been cut off from his family, and has just surpassed 1,000 days in prison while facing the prospect of many more years of incarceration to come. He is 75 years old. He must be freed now.”
The petition was signed by 10 Catholic prelates from around the world: Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York; Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal (India); Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Anthony Fisher, OP (Australia); Archbishop Gintaras Grušas (Lithuania); Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB (Canada); Archbishop John Wilson (United Kingdom); Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota; Bishop Alan A. McGuckian, SJ (Ireland), and Bishop Lucius Ugorji (Nigeria).
Since the controversial National Security Law went into effect in June 2020 there has been a broad erosion of civil liberty in the special administrative region. The law has given the government maximum latitude to interpret threats to national security and the unchecked authority to crack down on any form of perceived political dissidence and public protest.
There has been a push to further consolidate the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) control over religious affairs on the island to increase security and shield itself from increased Western influence.
Lee’s condemnation of the bishops’ petition came as Archbishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing, of the Chinese patriotic church, completed a three-day visit to the region at the invitation of Cardinal Stephen Chow, bishop of Hong Kong. During the visit, the archbishop reiterated the importance of implementing the program of religious sinicization, which calls for religious practice and belief to conform to the ideological positions of the CCP.