Hong Kong deports advocate planning to monitor Jimmy Lai trial

Jimmy Lai

HONG KONG: Hong Kong authorities have expelled an official of a media watchdog who arrived to cover the trial of pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai, Voice of America (VOA) has reported.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) revealed that Aleksandra Bielakowska, a Taiwan-based advocacy officer for RSF, was detained for six hours at the airport before being deported. Bielakowska had travelled to Hong Kong to attend the trial and meet with journalists alongside RSF’s Asia-Pacific Bureau Director Cedric Alviani.

However, upon arrival, airport authorities detained, searched, and interrogated Bielakowska, according to VOA.

A copy of the deportation documents obtained at Bielakowska’s expulsion is to be “imminent and/or immediate.”

Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s director of campaigns, told VOA the vague reason provided by Hong Kong authorities, noting that Bielakowska had previously traveled there without any issues.

She mentioned that Alviani had been admitted to Hong Kong but left for safety reasons after Bielakowska’s deportation. Vincent confirmed that the team is now safely back in Taipei.

RSF strongly condemned the treatment of Bielakowska and demanded that Hong Kong authorities provide an explanation and ensure the team’s ability to return to cover Lai’s trial.

“We have never experienced such blatant efforts by authorities to evade scrutiny of court proceedings in any country, which further highlights the ludicrous nature of the case against Jimmy Lai, and the dire erosion of press freedom and the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Vincent stated.

The Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment.

Bielakowska and Alviani had intended to cover Lai’s trial, which has lasted nearly 60 days. The 76-year-old publisher faces charges of sedition and collusion with foreign forces under Hong Kong’s national security law, to which he has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Lai could face life imprisonment.

Earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on Counterterrorism and Human Rights, Ben Saul, raised concerns about the trial, including allegations of evidence obtained through torture. However, Hong Kong authorities have refuted claims of unfairness in Lai’s trial.

Despite the deportation incident, RSF representatives, including Bielakowska, have previously visited Hong Kong to engage with journalists. In December, members of the watchdog attended the commencement of Lai’s trial, Voice of America reported. (ANI)

Also Read: UK urges immediate release of Jimmy Lai as Hong Kong trial begins

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