Hong Kong police reportedly arrested medial mogul Jimmy Lai for suspicion of foreign collusion and raided the office of his pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper Monday under a national security law implemented earlier this year.
Around 200 police officers raided the newspaper’s office and arrested at least nine men including Lai and other senior executives, Reuters reported. Lai is suspected of “collusion with a foreign country/external elements to endanger national security” and other crimes, the police said.
Apple Daily posted videos of the incident on its Facebook page which appear to depict police officers escorting the 71-year-old Lai out of the building and roaming through the newsroom searching files. (RELATED: Hong Kong Delays Elections, Disqualifies A Dozen Pro-Democracy Candidates)
Lai is the highest-profile person in Hong Kong to be arrested under the national security law passed earlier this year by the mainland Chinese government in Beijing. City-wide demonstrations and hundreds of arrests followed the implementation of the law.
Lai has been a prominent democracy activist in Hong Kong and the Apple Daily is known for its anti-government and pro-democracy positions, according to Reuters. Apple Daily chief editor Ryan Law called the arrests “business as usual” and told Reuters the paper would not be intimidated.
The self-made millionaire Lai was smuggled from mainland China at the age of 12 and became politically active after Beijing’s crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, according to The Washington Post.
Lai traveled to Washington, D.C. in July 2019 to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss the political situation in Hong Kong, the Post reported.
Pompeo said he was “deeply troubled” by the arrest in a tweet Monday. He added that the move was proof the Chinese Communist Party had “eroded the rights of its people.”
I’m deeply troubled by reports of the arrest of @JimmyLaiApple under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law. Further proof that the CCP has eviscerated Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 10, 2020
Chinese state media outlets have branded Lai a traitor. State-backed Global Times editor Hu Xijin said the arrests were proof that China “wasn’t intimidated by US sanctions” in a tweet Monday.
The arrest reflects that the HKSAR govt wasn’t intimidated by US sanctions, which actually are pushing HK civil servants further to Beijing. In the future, the sanctions will also push the hearts and minds of entire HK society to the Chinese mainland, promoting China’s unity. pic.twitter.com/ndMNpXRSdb
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) August 10, 2020
The Trump administration announced Friday it would impose sanctions on a number of Chinese leaders including Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam. (RELATED: China Sanctions Rubio, Cruz, Hawley And More Over Hong Kong)
Journalist groups and prominent pro-democracy activists like Joshua Wong denounced the move by Hong Kong police and said they supported Lai and the Apple Daily, according to Reuters.
[When reporting becomes Orwellian thoughtcrime]
1. @JimmyLaiApple‘s arrest and the raid of @appledaily_hk is a litmus test for the city’s #pressfreedom, one of the cornerstones of whether #HK remains open, free and tolerant to critical views under #Beijing‘s authoritarian rule. pic.twitter.com/Y7TCbDXCbw
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 ???? (@joshuawongcf) August 10, 2020
Committee to Protect Journalists Asia program coordinator Steven Butler told Reuters 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.”