Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai, one of Beijing’s most vocal critics, was arrested on Monday under a new national security law for collusion with foreign forces, deepening the crackdown on supporters of the democracy.
“They arrested him at his home around 7 a.m. Our lawyers are on their way to the police station,” Mark Simon, a close associate, told AFP, adding that other members of the press group from Lai had also been arrested.
A police source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that Lai was arrested on charges of collusion with foreign forces – one of the new national security offenses – and fraud.
Lai is the owner of Apple Daily and Next Magazine, two outlets resolutely pro-democratic and critical of Beijing.
On Twitter, Simon said officers were executing search warrants both at Lai’s mansion and at his son’s home.
Few Hong Kongers generate the level of Beijing vitriol that Lai does.
To many residents of the restless semi-autonomous city, he is an unlikely hero – a pugnacious, self-proclaimed tabloid owner and the only mogul willing to criticize Beijing.
But in Chinese state media, he is a “traitor”, the biggest “black hand” behind last year’s huge pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the head of a new “Gang of Four” conspiring with foreign nations to undermine the homeland.
Lai spoke to AFP in mid-June, two weeks before the new security law was imposed on the city.
“I am ready for prison,” said the 72-year-old. “If that happens, I will have the opportunity to read books that I haven’t read. The only thing I can do is be positive.”
He described the law as “the death knell of Hong Kong”.
“It will replace or destroy our rule of law and destroy our international financial situation,” he said.
He also said he feared the authorities would attack his journalists.
The security law targets secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
It was introduced to quell the often violent protests of the past year.
China and Hong Kong have said it will not affect people’s freedoms and only target a minority.
But its broadly worded provisions criminalize certain political speeches, such as advocating for sanctions, greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.
Critics, including many Western countries, believe the law ended key freedoms and autonomy that Beijing had promised Hong Kong to retain after it was surrendered in 1997 by Britain.
Lai is no stranger to arrest.
He is already being sued for taking part in protests last year – and for defying a police ban from attending a vigil in early June commemorating the deadly Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing in 1989.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is posted from a syndicated feed.)