Hong Kong press boss and billionaire Jimmy Lai, 71, known for his openly pro-democracy stances, was arrested at his home on Monday, August 10, at 7 a.m. Jimmy Lai was taken away with his wrists handcuffed behind his back while his residence was searched. He was then seen at the headquarters of his press group, Next Digital. According to his diary, the Apple Daily, his two eldest sons, Timothy and Ian, as well as several members of the newspaper’s management, were also arrested and their homes searched.
Without naming names, Hong Kong police said Monday morning they arrested “Seven local men”, aged 39 to 72, charged with “collusion with foreign forces”, a crime covered by the new national security law, as well as “conspiracy to fraud”.
The National Security Law, finalized by Beijing and promulgated in Hong Kong on June 30, punishes crimes of subversion, separatism, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with penalties of up to life. Its official goal is to restore order in the former British colony where anti-government protest has swelled since the summer of 2019, taking the form of demonstrations or violent actions on several occasions. The pro-democracy opposition believes that this law aims primarily to silence any form of protest or criticism from both local government and central authorities in Beijing.
“The death of freedom of the press”
In the middle of the morning, two hundred police officers disembarked at the NextDigital site in Tseung Kwan Ho, where the Apple Daily, second most read title in Hong Kong, is produced and printed. They searched the editorial staff. Some verbal altercations, filmed live, took place between journalists and police officers.
Asked by a reporter as he was escorted through the halls of the company, Jimmy Lai simply said: “What do you want me to think about it?” If they want to stop me, I don’t know what to think… ” Speaking to the press in front of the site gates, a police spokesperson justified the operation by invoking the new powers granted to the local police (in application of article 43 of the new national security law) . He indicated that “The search takes place[ait] calmly and the police do their best[ait] to finish as quickly as possible so that the operations of the press company are not affected ”.
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