A group of US politicians have nominated six Hong Kong activists – including Joshua Wong and Cardinal Joseph Zen – for the Nobel Peace Prize, calling them “ardent champions” of human rights in the city.

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Also among the nominees are pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, Tiananmen vigil organiser Chow Hang-tung, former journalist Gwyneth Ho and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan.

The six were nominated by Republican politicians Marco Rubio and Christopher Smith, as well as Democrats James McGovern and Jeff Markley, according to a press release published on Thursday.

The nomination, according to a press release, sought to “honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world.”

“The nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China,” the press release read.

Cardinal Joseph Zen 612 Humanitarian Fund
Cardinal Joseph Zen at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building for the 612 Humanitarian Fund case on September 26, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Among the six nominees, all but Zen are either serving jail sentences or have been remanded in custody while awaiting trial for national security offences, among them a subversion case relating to an election primary and the organisation of vigils to mourn victims of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.

He was, however, arrested and convicted in November over failing to register a protesters’ relief fund as a society, an offence under the city’s Societies Ordinance, for which he was handed a HK$4,000 fine. The 91-year-old has filed an appeal against his conviction.

Since Beijing implemented the national security law in June 2020, scores of activists and former lawmakers have been arrested, while civil society organisations have been forced to shut down. Others have left the city.

October 1 Police purple flag causeway bay national security banner
A police banner warning against potential violations of the national security law on Oct. 1, 2020. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Authorities, however, maintain that the law has restored peace and stability to the city, which saw months of unrest starting in the summer of 2019 over a controversial amendment to the extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China.

HKFP has reached out to the Security Bureau for comment.

The US politicians’ nomination comes a month after 15 academics from around the world also put forward Wong, Lai, Chow, Ho and Lee for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The five we are nominating symbolize the hopes not only of millions of Hong Kong people who are worried about the fate of their city but also of countless people on the China mainland who cannot express their views,” the academics wrote.

The Nobel Peace Prize, awarded yearly, honours those who have promoted “the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens,” according to The Nobel Prize Organisation.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.