Hong Kong deports Reporters Without Borders representative sent to monitor Jimmy Lai’s trial – JURIST

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Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stated on Wednesday that Hong Kong authorities detained its representative Aleksandra Bielakowska for six hours and later deported her from the territory. Bielakowska was about to attend the trial of Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily.

During the six-hour detainment, the authorities conducted a search three times on Bielakowska and her belongings. The authorities issued her a notice of detention, claiming that her deportation from Hong Kong was “imminent and/or immediate.” RSF also stated that they have previously entered Hong Kong successfully in June and December 2023 to monitor Jimmy Lai’s trial.

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RSF’s Director of Campaign Rebecca Vincent said in the statement that RSF’s representatives have never experienced “such blatant efforts by authorities to evade scrutiny of court proceedings in any country.” Vincent further claimed that the deportation represented the “dire erosion of press freedom.” The government has yet to reply to the statement.

Previously, in May 2023, the RSF published a joint statement, signed by publishers, editors-in-chief  and senior editors from 42 countries, calling for Jimmy Lai’s immediate release and reinstatement of independent media. The joint statement contended that Jimmy Lai and Apple Daily ensured Hong Kong people had access to vital independent information. The statement also mentioned that the forced closure of independent news outlets, including Apple Daily and Stand News, represents “the devastating blows to Hong Kong media freedom.”

The government refused the allegations, counter-arguing that RSF’s statement amounted to an interference with the judicial proceedings and undermined the rule of law. The government reiterated that press freedoms and the right to a fair trial by the judiciary exercising judicial power independently are protected rights under the Hong Kong Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the 2020 National Security Law. The government further stated that in exercising the right to freedom of expression, journalists should bear in mind the notion of “responsible journalism,” comply with ordinary criminal law and report on an accurate factual basis.

Lai is currently facing the charges of “conspiring to collude with foreign forces” under the 2020 National Security Law and “publishing seditious materials” under the Crimes Ordinance. Lai has been detained since December 2020 and is serving a sentence of almost six years for fraud charges.

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