Five jailed Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who face national security law charges have been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. Media mogul Jimmy Lai, Joshua Wong, Gwyneth Ho, Chow Hang-tung and Lee Cheuk-yan were nominated by 15 academics from 10 countries.

In the nomination letter sent in January, the five were described as “prisoners of conscience” who had “put their freedom on the line.”

Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“The principles that they act upon undergird human rights and human dignity everywhere, and their voices emerge at a time when human rights and dignity are coming under ever-greater pressure around the world,” the academics said.

The scholars said the prize, to be awarded in October, would “underscore the highest moral aspirations of humanity.”

Jimmy Lai, 74, is founder of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper, which was raided by police and closed in June last year. He is accused of colluding with foreign forces, an offence under the Beijing-imposed security law, by allegedly calling for foreign sanctions. The maximum penalty for the offence is life imprisonment. Lai is currently serving 20 months behind bars for other protest-related charges.

Joshua Wong and Gwyneth Ho face “subversion” charges for their participation in an unofficial legislative primary election in July 2020. Ho has been on remand since her arrest in February last year, while Wong is serving a separate sentence of 13 months for organising and taking part in unauthorised assemblies.

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Barrister Chow Hang-tung and Lee Cheuk-yan, respectively the former vice-chair and chairperson of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, also face security law charges. Authorities allege the Alliance incited subversion. Chow, Lee and former lawmaker Albert Ho, who was also a veteran member of the group, face the same charge and are all in custody.

The Alliance previously organised an annual mass commemoration in a Hong Kong park of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Chow Hang-tung
Chow Hang-tung. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

A Washington Post opinion piece by Josh Rogin on Tuesday described the five nominees as “representatives of hundreds, if not thousands of” Hongkongers who are “bearing the brunt” of the security law, which was imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

july 27 may james china extradition best of yuen long
Anti-extradition amendment bill protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

It is not the first time Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists have been nominated. In 2018, a US congressional group nominated Joshua Wong, together with fellow protest leaders Nathan Law and Alex Chow, who were the faces of defiance in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

In 2019, the people of Hong Kong as a whole were nominated by Norwegian politician Guri Melby following the mass anti-extradition bill protests that year. The movement itself was up for the prize in 2020 and 2021.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.