Saturday, July 20, 2024

Alexander: One brilliant spark of truth can do great good

by BIZ Magazine

Jimmy Lai.  I was generally familiar with him and his struggle, but recent developments have brought me greater clarity.

He is a native of Hong Kong, a businessman who has owned newspapers, including his publication, Apple Daily, which was seized from him for no legal reason.  He is now on (a sham) trial for alleged “national security” charges, which is the time-honored method by which authoritarian governments crush and smother liberty.

The U.S. Embassy in China made this statement: “The United States condemns the prosecution of pro-democracy advocate and media owner Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong under the PRC-imposed National Security Law.  Lai has been held in pre-trial detention for more than 1,000 days, and Hong Kong and Beijing authorities have denied him his choice of legal representation.  We urge Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to respect press freedom in Hong Kong.  Actions that stifle press freedom and restrict the free flow of information … have undermined Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and harmed Hong Kong’s reputation as an international business and financial hub. We call on Hong Kong authorities to immediately release Jimmy Lai and all others imprisoned for defending their rights.”

While this statement highlights America’s position, the U.S. Government could do far more.  In fact, as The Heritage Foundation has observed, “it’s unlikely that President Joe Biden brought up the name Jimmy Lai in conversations with China’s communist dictator, Xi Jinping.  At least the records don’t show it.  But Lai’s impending trial in Hong Kong represents a classic showdown between a tireless defender of freedom and a brutal regime.”   Nevertheless “Lai richly deserves America’s benedictions and prayers, and Biden makes a mistake in not using his bully pulpit to press for his release.  Lai fought for freedom vigorously for decades in Hong Kong until Xi’s truculence burned it down by throwing him into prison in 2020.”  (M. Gonzalez, The Heritage Foundation, Nov. 21, 2022). 

Lai has not only demonstrated his strong belief in freedom of speech but is also credited with a major role in fostering Hong Kong’s economic liberty and, consequently, its great economic success.  These are tremendous accomplishments—and unprecedented—in a communist country like China that stifles individual liberty and economic freedom. 

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, “Lai poses no threat to China’s national security, only to the CCP’s lust for absolute power.  Both Lai and Xi are obsessed with liberty—Jimmy with expanding it and Xi with crushing it.  After all other publications bent a knee to Beijing following the ‘97 handover, Jimmy’s Apple Daily empire continued to advocate continuing Hong Kong’s free way of life.  No tyrant can live alongside the free flow of information.” (W. McGurn, WSJ, 12-19-2023).

However, while compelling, that is not what I find most captivating and intriguing about Mr. Lai, a convert to Catholicism who is willing to die in defense of his commitment to freedom.  Rather, it’s his strong faith in God that, to me, rings out with a clarion call.  His Christian faith, by all accounts, is what anchors him and informs his life devoted to his wife and his six children—and to freedom.

In an interview published by the Wall Street Journal we learn of Mr. Lai’s interaction with another lover of freedom, former Soviet citizen, Natan Sharansky, in 2020.  Lai and Sharansky discussed “how important it is never to back down and to live as a free man even in prison by rejecting the lies the government pushes.” (W. McGurn, WSJ, 12-19-2023).

Then Sharansky, in as powerful a statement of life’s struggle as I have seen, encouraged Lai to “regard the burden laid on him as a blessing” such that “if you were chosen by faith, by God, by your people to lead, to be the example of this moment, it’s a great responsibility but it’s also a great joy. So enjoy it!” (Id.)

What a powerful statement of hope and faith.  

Now, the dangerous road ahead for Lai in his trial will provide him an international platform from which to courageously reflect the timeless truths instilled in every human being: we are made in the image and likeness of God and, for that reason, possess intrinsic value, dignity, and the fundamental human right to be free, a right given to us by God and, therefore, a right that no government can take away. 

One such example is worth more to life than the stained triumphs of 10,000 Caesars. (Author unknown).

Royal Alexander is a Shreveport attorney

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