The Chinese Communist Party’s brutal crackdown on political and civil rights has made it unsafe to do business in Hong Kong, the son of an imprisoned media tycoon toldd multinational corporations in an address to a U.S. congressional hearing on Thursday.
"It should be a warning for all foreign businesses. It is not business as usual in Hong Kong," Sebastien Lai, the son of Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai, told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper founded by Jimmy Lai, and its parent company Next Digital were shut down in June 2021 after communist authorities froze their financial assets.
Related: CCP suffocates one of Hong Kong’s last free press bastions to death, September 13, 2021
Jimmy Lai was sentenced to nearly six years in prison after being charged with fraud related to breaching his office lease.
“He faces even more prison time over charges of publishing seditious material and conspiracy of colluding with foreign forces under the draconian national security law,” Nikkei Asia reported on Thursday.
"The cost of business in Hong Kong has gone up significantly as a result of these institutions being broken down," Sebastian Lai, referring to the rule of law and justice system, told the commission.
Sebastien Lai also submitted written testimony to the commission.
"What has happened to my father could happen to anyone, to any organization," he wrote.
"For as long as my father remains in prison, Hong Kong is not a safe place to do business. For as long as the [national security law] and other laws are used to target businesses and organizations considered to undermine the [Chinese Communist Party], Hong Kong is not a safe place to do business."
The U.S. commission published a report on Thursday urging the Biden administration to impose sanctions against Hong Kong judges overseeing security cases, such as Kwok Wai-kin and Amanda Woodcock.
"I would note that American businesses have now been put on notice that rule of law in Hong Kong is dead," New Jersey Republican Rep. Christopher H. Smith, the commission’s chairman, said.
National security officers have arrested more than 200 people since Beijing imposed the security law in mid-2020 that has silenced critics and criminalized any form of dissent. The number of political prisoners, including arrested protesters and activists, totals 1,459, the commission heard.
“Rule of law and the independent judiciary gave multinational corporations confidence to operate in the former British colony, but trust in the legal system has wavered since the security law was enacted,” Nikkei Asia noted. “Judges hearing national security cases are handpicked by the city's leader while authorities can call for a no-jury security trial. Legal changes recently pushed through Hong Kong's opposition-free legislature have further impacted the reputation of the city's legal institution.”
China slammed the U.S. last week for criticizing Hong Kong's national security law. A spokesperson for the commissioner's office of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said American politicians should "immediately stop interfering into and smearing 'one country, two systems' and Hong Kong affairs, otherwise they will only be confronted with repeated failures."
Gregory May, the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, has said foreign businesses in the territory now face the same risks as their counterparts in mainland China with the national security law in place.
"In light of these and other developments, companies should be aware that the risks faced in mainland China are now increasingly present here in Hong Kong," May said earlier this year.
In the past month, foreign businesses in mainland China including Capvision, Mintz, and Bain & Company saw their offices raided by Chinese police “as the central government tightens data security and its espionage law sends a chill across the international business community,” Nikkei Asia reported.
Membership . . . . Intelligence . . . . Publish