by WorldTribune Staff, August 11, 2020
Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s popular pro-democracy newspaper, has been released on bail after being arrested Monday on suspicion of collusion under the Chinese Communist Party’s new national security law, reports say.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong said in a statement that Monday’s arrest of Lai and the Apple Daily office raid “signal a dark new phase in the erosion of the city’s global reputation.” The statement said that, during the newsroom raid, “uniformed police entered and set up cordons with orange tape, questioned journalists and took down their identifying information, and were seen rifling through notes and papers on reporters’ desks.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a tweet, said he was troubled by Lai’s arrest and called it further proof that communist China “has eviscerated Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.”
Lai was released on bail shortly after midnight, Nikkei Asian Review reported. He was surrounded by supporters holding the Tuesday edition of the Apple Daily with a headline declaring that the paper will “fight on.”
Also released on bail was pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, who was also taken into custody on Monday.
“I don’t completely understand why I was arrested,” Chow told reporters after her release, calling what happened to her “political suppression.” This was the “most scary” of her four arrests, she said. Chow revealed that her passport had been seized.
Hong Kong police also arrested Wilson Li, a freelance journalist with Britain’s ITN and an ex-member of the now-disbanded student group Scholarism, according to TVB. Wilson Li said that he was detained in connection with the NGO Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong along with activist Andy Li. They both stand accused of collusion with foreign forces under the national security law.
Police arrested Jimmy Lai at his home Monday morning and informed him he faced national security charges, according to Mark Simon, an executive at his company. Lai’s two sons and four employees from his publishing company were also arrested. Hong Kong police said at least nine people were arrested throughout the day on national security and other charges, including fraud.
“The arrests sent troubling signals about the future of the free press in Hong Kong. About 200 police also raided Apple Daily’s newsroom, stringing up cordons in and around reporter cubicles as newspaper staffers live-streamed the raid,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
At one point, police brought a shackled Lai into the newsroom.
“This is for sure thwarting the freedom of press, it’s needless to say,” Lai said in Cantonese on the live stream.
In May, Lai issued a direct plea to U.S. President Donald Trump saying: “Mr. President, you’re the only one who can save us. If you save us and stop China’s aggressions, you also save the world.”
Following Lai’s pleas, the Apple Daily published a front-page letter pleading with Trump to defend Hong Kong. The letter finishes: “Mr. President, please help us.”
Lai’s newspaper was a major “thorn in the side of the city’s pro-Beijing leadership” during months of massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong last year, the Journal noted.
Nathan Law, a democracy activist who fled Hong Kong, called Lai’s arrest “The end of freedom of press in Hong Kong. The national security law is quashing the freedom of our society, spreading politics of fear.”
The decision to impose the law reflects a calculation by supreme leader Xi Jinping that it is worth risking the city’s viability as a lucrative marketplace in order to crush dissent, observers say.
Hours before the security law was enacted, Lai said he would keep publishing and remain in Hong Kong so he could fight for his beliefs.
“We are the obvious target. Whatever we write, or whatever we say, they can label secession or subversion or whatever they decide according to their expedience,” Lai said. “They want to intimidate me, to frighten me to leave, so that I disgrace myself, discredit Apple Daily and undermine the solidarity of the pandemocrat movement.”