Skip to main content

For the Preservation of Liberties - Voltaire Prize 2023 goes to Amy Lai from Hong Kong

The Hong Kong-born lawyer and author Amy Lai is this year's recipient of the Voltaire Prize for Tolerance, International Understanding and Respect for Difference. Every year, the University of Potsdam presents the award, which is endowed with 5,000 euros, to a person who has showed a special commitment to freedom of research and teaching and to the right to freedom of expression. Lai is currently conducting research as a visiting professor at Freie Universität Berlin. According to the jury's assessment, Lai has demonstrated a special commitment to the preservation of civil liberties in her home city and western world. Her latest research shows that freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted, even in the Western world. The award will be presented during the university’s New Year’s reception today, where Lai will give the keynote speech.

Amy Lai was born in British Hong Kong, where she grew up, attended high school. She continued her academic education in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. Since the beginning of her legal career, Lai has published in major Hong Kong and Western newspapers and websites on the subjects of governance and freedom of expression - topics that have gradually become taboo in her hometown since the Chinese takeover. Her first book, The Right to Parody (Cambridge University Press, 2019), won several awards, including the 2021 Franklyn Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression. Lai is committed to preserving civil liberties in the western world as shown by her upcoming book in 2023 about freedom of expression in western universities.

“Since 2014, when the Umbrella Revolution began in Hong Kong against the Chinese government's intensified repression, Amy Lai has been journalistically committed to preserving freedoms and rights in her home city, calling for them in various local newspapers, many of which have since been banned,” says jury member and Voltaire expert Iwan Michelangelo D'Aprile. The jury also includes Prof. Oliver Günther, Ph.D., President of the University of Potsdam; Vice President Prof. Dr. Florian Schweigert; Humboldt expert Prof. Dr. Ottmar Ette; Prof. Dr. Christoph Markschies, the President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and church historian; and Prof. Dr. Barbara Stollberg-Rillinger, the Rector of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

The Voltaire Prize for Tolerance, International Understanding, and Respect for Difference, sponsored by the Friede Springer Foundation, has been awarded by the University of Potsdam since 2017. So far, the award has gone to the Turkish political scientist Dr. Hilal Alkan, who denounced the war in the Kurdish regions and the actions of the security forces against civilians and subsequently lost her job; the Guatemalan sociologist Dr. Gladys Tzul Tzul, who is committed to indigenous peoples in Central America; and the Afghan philosopher Ahmad Milad Karimi for his professional commitment as a mediator between cultures. The award winner in 2020 was media and IT lawyer Gábor Polyák, who was honored for his tireless efforts on behalf of press and media freedom in Hungary. In 2021, the prize went to political scientist and human rights activist Elisabeth Kaneza for her fight against discrimination, and in 2022 to historian and political scientist Duong Keo, who comes from Cambodia and contributes to a more conscious approach to his homeland’s past.

A livestream will be held on the university’s YouTube channel:

Notice! For security reasons, no photos of the Voltaire Prize winner may be distributed or published. For this reason, no press photos are made available.

Contact: Karina Jung, Executive Assistant for Friend- and Fundraising
Telephone: 0331 977-153054
Email: junguni-potsdamde

Media Information 25-01-2023 / No. 008



Online editorial

Sabine Schwarz