Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under security law

Owner of Apple Daily becomes the highest-profile person arrested under the new security law

August 10, 2020 08:21 am | Updated 11:59 pm IST - Hong Kong

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai. File Photo.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai. File Photo.

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai became the highest-profile person arrested under a new national security law on Monday, detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as around 200 police searched the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper.

Mr. Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing. His arrest comes amid Beijing’s crackdown against pro-democracy Opposition in the city and further stokes concerns about media and other freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997. China imposed the sweeping new security law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.

Suppressing criticism

The arrest “bears out the worst fears that Hong Kong’s National Security Law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom”, said Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia programme coordinator.

Ryan Law, chief editor of Apple Daily , a staunch anti-government and pro-democracy tabloid that also does investigative work, said the paper would not intimidated.

“Business as usual,” he said.

Mr. Lai, 71, had been a frequent visitor to Washington, where he has met officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to rally support for Hong Kong democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”.

Apple Daily , which posted on its Facebook page a livestream of police officers roaming through its newsroom and rifling through files, reported that Mr. Lai had been taken from his home early on Monday.

He was brought back to the office later, initially in handcuffs. “We can’t worry that much, we can only go with the flow,” Mr. Lai said, before being escorted into a police vehicle.

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