Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law
A well-known critic of Beijing previously suggested he could be hurt by the new law
HONG KONG – Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has been arrested on charges of conspiring with foreign forces under the new national security law, his top aide said on Twitter. This is the loudest arrest so far under a recently passed law..
Lai is one of the most prominent democratic activists in Hong Kong and an outspoken critic of Beijing, which enacted a radical new law for Hong Kong on June 30, which drew criticism from Western countries..
The new law punishes anything China considers subversive and separatist activities, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment..
Critics say he is trampling on freedoms in the semi-autonomous city, while supporters believe he will bring stability after protracted pro-democracy protests last year..
“Jimmy Lai is being arrested right now for collusion with foreign powers,” Mark Simon, a senior executive at Next Digital, which publishes local tabloid Apple Daily, said Monday night..
Police have not yet commented..
Apple Daily reported that Lai was taken away from his home in Ho Man Ting District early Monday morning. The newspaper claims that one of Lai’s sons, Ian, was also arrested..
A dozen more people are expected to be arrested on Monday, the local South China Morning Post reported without citing sources..
Earlier this year, Lai, along with other leading activists, was arrested on illegal assembly charges related to last year’s protests..
In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai pledged to stay in Hong Kong and continue to fight for democracy, although he suspected he might be hurt by the new law..
Until Monday, 15 people were arrested under the new law. Of these, four people, between the ages of 16 and 21, were arrested for posting on social media..
The new law shocked Hong Kong, affecting many aspects of the city’s life. Activists disbanded their organizations, and some left the city altogether.
Certain slogans were declared illegal, some songs and actions, including the formation of living chains, were banned in schools, some books were removed from public libraries.
The US on Friday imposed sanctions against Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, current and former territorial police chiefs, and other senior officials. Washington explained this by their involvement in the restriction of freedoms in Hong Kong.
Beijing’s highest office in Hong Kong calls sanctions “clown”.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government have argued that the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and that it is needed to close security loopholes. They argued that it would only be directed against a small number of “troublemakers”.