China has made Jimmy Lai into a symbol of freedom like the “tank man” in the Tiananmen Massacre, said Mike Gonzalze, Senior Fellow of Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy.
“The Communist Party has made a great mistake by arresting you,” Gonzalez said as he showed up at Lai’s weekly Twitter live chat on Thursday morning.
The media tycoon, who was arrested on Monday under the national security law, said it is “natural” for him to step up and face challenges.
“I’m 73 this year and I’ve been in Hong Kong for over 60 years...I have never been so happy, that I feel I’m doing the right thing,” Lai sobbed as he vowed to fight on for the city.
“This is a precious feeling especially when I have come close to the end of my life. No matter how difficult it is, knowing myself doing the right thing makes me feel peaceful inside.”
“There has never been a moment that I was shameful when I was in handcuffs… I just did what I had to do for this place, as it has treated me so well,” Lai teared up again. “This is my homeland that has brought me everything I have.”
The pro-democracy media mogul who smuggled into Hong Kong aged 12 was a rags-to-riches legend.
A quote from his interview with AFP in June – “I came here with nothing, the freedom of this place has given me everything. Maybe it’s time I paid back for that freedom by fighting for it” – went viral online after Monday’s arrest.
The support for Lai was bipartisan in the United States, Gonzalez said. He analogized the handover of a free society like Hong Kong to an autocratic regime to “handing a fine violin to someone who doesn’t even know what music is.”
“What makes Hong Kong so attractive as a financial center is the freedom of the press. You cannot be a financial center without the ability to communicate,” Gonzalez remarked, adding that Shanghai or Singapore would have replaced Hong Kong long ago if not for the city’s free flow of information.
Gonzalez said sanctions might be a way out, but if China refuses to listen to the rest of the world and make changes, “there’s not much we can do.”
Several supporters phoned in during the live chat and one of them, who is currently based in New York, asked Lai what overseas Hongkongers can do for the city.
Lai stressed that continuing to voice support for Hong Kong is the best thing they can do.
On a lighter note of the rather emotional chat, Lai laughed and asked people to stop the buying spree of shares in his media group. The surge, which came after activists called for snapping up the stock in solidarity with Apple Daily, was just temporary and would not last long, Lai said.
Full session replay is accessible via this link.
Click here for Chinese version.
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