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In this file photo taken on June 16, 2020, millionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai poses during an interview with AFP at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong.ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

An international alliance of human-rights activists and lawmakers has launched a campaign in solidarity with Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and newspaper founder who has been imprisoned since December of last year.

Mr. Lai, who founded the popular Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily, has been handed two concurrent sentences amounting to at least 20 months in prison over his role in an unauthorized assembly during a pro-democracy rally on Oct. 1, 2019. Apple Daily was shuttered in June after law enforcement arrested Mr. Lai and four other senior executives for allegedly violating Beijing’s controversial national security law.

Politicians around the world, including from Canada, Britain and France, are expected to participate in the campaign, and will join activists in posting a “Letter to Lai” – a short video message in support of the jailed editor-in-chief.

Jailed Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai sentenced to 14 months for illegal assembly

“I’m sending this letter to Jimmy to let him know – and know internationally – that we stand in solidarity with him and the cause of media freedom and democracy movement in Hong Kong, and indeed the cause of democracy and freedom as a whole,” former justice minister Irwin Cotler, founder and international chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, said in a video message posted online.

Journalists from Apple Daily will also be taking over the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy’s social-media platforms to post articles that have been barred under China’s national security law. The “Letters to Lai” will appear on the Geneva Summit’s social media throughout the day, and members of the public have been asked to post their own. This year’s summit is scheduled to take place on March 15, 2022.

“At the Geneva Summit, we work with human rights activists who are former political prisoners. If there is one thought they all share while imprisoned, it’s the fear of being forgotten,” Geneva Summit spokesperson Dylan Rogers said in a news release.

“With this campaign, we therefore want to show Mr. Lai that the world remembers his name.”

A man gestures as he brings copies of the final edition of Apple Daily, published by Next Digital, to a news stand in Hong Kong, China June 24, 2021.LAM YIK/Reuters

The campaign comes as countries around the world grapple with whether to participate in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

On Wednesday, Canada joined a growing list of allied countries, including the United States, Britain and Australia, in refusing to send their diplomats to the Games over China’s mistreatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and its civil-rights crackdown in Hong Kong.

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the move should not “come as a surprise” to the Chinese Communist Party.

“We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human-rights violations,” Mr. Trudeau said, adding that the decision to participate in the diplomatic boycott of the Games was a continuation of expressing those concerns.

With reports from Janice Dickson and Reuters

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