Media Freedom and Democracy in Hong Kong: The Trial of Jimmy Lai

Presented by The Melbourne Press Club and PEN Melbourne. Supported by the Centre for Advancing Journalism and The University of Melbourne.

There is no better time to focus on the crucial issue of media freedom than in the aftermath of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange finally walking free.

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In this special event, we highlight the plight of Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner and media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai who is facing the prospect of a lifetime in prison under the new National Security Law.

We hear from Jimmy's son, Sebastien Lai, noted international human rights lawyer Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and a key member of the Assange legal team, Jennifer Robinson.

Mr Lai has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of the persecution he has faced for his work advocating for democracy and civil liberties in Hong Kong.

Centre for Advancing Journalism’s Associate Professor Louisa Lim will moderate this important discussion and help explore the issue of media freedom across the region.



Sebastien Lai is Jimmy Lai’s son. Jimmy is a renowned pro-democracy campaigner, media entrepreneur and writer, who founded Next Digital and Apple Daily, the popular independent Chinese language newspaper in Hong Kong which was forcibly shut down in 2021. Jimmy Lai has been imprisoned in Hong Kong since December 2020, and now awaits trial which could lead to him spending the rest of his life behind bars. Sebastien is leading the international  #FreeJimmyLai campaign to secure his father’s release.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC is an award-winning human rights lawyer who has acted in many of the defining cases over the past 20 years in the UK, before the European Court of Human Rights and UN bodies. She is an expert in media freedom and journalists' safety: her cases include leading the international legal teams for Hong Kong publisher and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai; for the bereaved family of assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia; and for Maria Ressa, the Nobel Peace Prize winning journalist in the Philippines.

Jennifer Robinson is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers in London and is a member of the international legal team for Jimmy Lai. She has acted in key human rights and media freedom cases in domestic and international courts, and her board positions include the Grata Fund, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at Oxford University. She is a trustee of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. In 2022, she co-authored How Many More Women?



Louisa Lim is an award-winning journalist who reported from China for a decade for NPR and the BBC.  Her most recent book Indelible City; Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong was shortlisted for the Stella Prize, the Walkley Award and the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-fiction, and won a Citation from the Overseas Press Club of America.  She co-hosts The Little Red Podcast, an award-winning podcast on China. She works as an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, teaching audio journalism and podcasting, and has a PhD in journalism studies.


Bookings for this event have closed. See photos from the event below.



Title image: “Jimmy Lai to Final Court 20210201” by Studio Incendo is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Learn about this license at

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