Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai has been awarded a Chinese democracy prize founded by an exiled human rights activist, for his contributions to the political movement in Hong Kong.
Lai was “a symbol of Hong Kong people’s rejection of tyranny” and “a model for mainland Chinese to learn from,” the Wei Jingsheng Foundation said on Saturday.
The foundation said it was honoring him with the 17th Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize, aimed at recognizing people who had made great contributions to the cause of Chinese democracy.
“Mr. Jimmy Lai adheres to his anti-communist stance and is closely related to the Hong Kong democrats. Facing the retaliation from the Chinese Communist regime, Mr. Lai refused to give in,” the foundation said.
The media entrepreneur was on Thursday denied bail over a fraud charge, and is now under detention pending a court hearing in April next year.
The foundation emphasized that this year’s prize was also an award to “the unyielding Hong Kong people and represents the voice of those who support democracy in Hong Kong.”
It explained that the award was usually not given to people from the same region in consecutive years. Due to “extraordinary expectations and goals for motivation,” the foundation decided to fete Lai after retired Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen won the prize in 2019.
“Hong Kong is not only the focus of the world’s attention, but also a barometer for the future of the Chinese freedom and democracy,” the foundation said. “To support the people of Hong Kong today is to support the future of freedom and democracy in mainland China.”
The foundation was set up by Chinese human rights activist Wei Jingsheng in 1998 to improve human rights and democratization in China.
The Beijing-born Wei, now 70, famously authored the essay “The Fifth Modernization,” which promoted democracy and was posted on the Democracy Wall in the Chinese capital in 1978. That manifesto landed him in jail for 15 years over “counter-revolutionary” activities. After his release in 1993, Wei continued with his dissident activities. He was imprisoned again between 1994 and 1997, until the then United States president Bill Clinton’s plans to visit China in 1998 gave him an opportunity to regain freedom. In November 1997, Beijing deported Wei to the U.S. on medical parole.
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