The Passion of Jimmy Lai

Hong Kong Apostasy


The focus of Hong Kong Apostasy, a featured section in China Heritage, is the 2019-2020 Hong Kong Protest Movement and its aftermath.

Starting in March 2019, mass protests against legislation proposed by the territory’s political leader gained momentum over the summer months. Faced by the insurmountable political nexus between the Hong Kong authorities and their Beijing masters, protests, and the demands of protesters, escalated until the city was overwhelmed by a popular uprising. The protests were, in essence, a rejection of the Official China of Xi Jinping and a celebration of Other China, or The Best China, one repeatedly ignored, misunderstood and threatened by the Communist party-state.

Our humble bellies have ingested a surfeit of treachery,
eaten their fill of history, wolfed down legends —
and still the banquet goes on, leaving
an unfilled void in an ever-changing structure.
Constantly we become food for our own consumption.
For fear of forgetting we swallow our loved ones,
we masticate our memories and our stomachs rumble
as we look outwards.

— from P.K. Leung 梁秉鈞,‘Cauldron’

A ‘national security law’, officially titled Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, went into effect on 30 June 2020, nearly three years to the day after Xi Jinping, China’s party-state-army leader, visited the territory. Xi’s visit marked the beginning of the denouement of Hong Kong’s fall, or 淪陷 lúnxiàn.


We are grateful to Constant Reader #1 for recommending the following documentary film about Jimmy Lai (Lai Chee-ying 黎智英, 1947-), the jailed Hong Kong entrepreneur and publisher. It was released by the Acton Institute on 18 April 2023. The Acton Institute is a pro-free market think tank that supports ecumenical Christian teachings.

The term ‘passion’ in the title of this chapter in Hong Kong Apostasy comes from the Latin term patior, ‘to suffer, bear, endure’. It usually refers to the ‘passion narrative’ covering the last days of Jesus Christ, including his trial and crucifixion.

In Chinese, the narrative of Christ’s passion is 受難記 shòu nàn jì.

— Geremie R, Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
21 April 2023


Also in Hong Kong Apostasy:

lún, sink, submerge, to be lost, as in 淪陷 lúnxiàn, ‘to fall into enemy hands’. Seal script carving in the hand of Zhu Gao 朱夰 of the Qing dynasty


The Hong Konger: Jimmy Lai’s

Extraordinary Struggle for Freedom

Acton Institute


Jimmy Lai personifies Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial spirit. This spirit, coupled with an embrace of freedom, unleashed economic prosperity for Hong Kongers and made Jimmy a billionaire. Jimmy’s native China underwent a similar prosperity by undertaking an experiment with personal and economic freedoms, lifting an astounding 800 million Chinese out of poverty. Today, it’s a different story—and the stakes couldn’t be higher for Jimmy Lai, the citizens of Hong Kong, and the people of China.

Jimmy fled Maoist revolutionaries as a 12 year old and began a new life as a simple textile laborer in Hong Kong. Within 30 years he started a fashion house and built Giordano into an enormously successful clothing retail business with thousands of stores worldwide. In reaction to China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Jimmy launched Next Media and published Hong Kong’s most successful newspaper, Apple Daily. As guardian of freedom of speech and the press, Apple Daily provided an independent voice for Hong Kong following its 1997 transition from British rule to Chinese control.

Reassured by Beijing’s “one nation, two systems” approach, much of Hong Kong’s prosperity and freedom continued—until a palpable shift occurred under the leadership of Chinese president Xi Jinping. As China retreated from its “one nation, two systems” policy and began installing pro-Beijing leaders in Hong Kong, Jimmy became a leading voice against repressive policies. Jimmy could have fled but he chose to stay, marching alongside millions of his fellow Hong Kongers in defense of freedom and democracy. He was soon arrested and jailed. International banks froze his assets. Apple Daily was raided and key executives arrested. In June 2021, Apple Daily printed its final edition and shut its doors.

Today Jimmy perseveres in a Hong Kong prison cell awaiting trial.

Featuring Lord Christopher Patten, Rev. Robert Sirico, Mary Kissel, Victoria Hui, Joey Siu, William McGurn, Lord David Alton and others, The Hong Konger chronicles Jimmy’s story of heroic sacrifice and symbol of the freedom movement. From his own testimony as well as through exclusive interviews with diplomats, citizen activists, scholars, and friends from across the globe, one thing becomes clear: Jimmy’s fate is in our hands. His cause must not die in a prison cell—for freedom is not merely his cause, but the cause of all Hong Kongers, the Chinese people, and indeed all humanity.