Posted on Aug 10, 2020
The arrest of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the highest-profile person arrested under Beijing's new national security laws, has come as no surprise to western observers.
The pro-democracy businessman was detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as around 200 police searched the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper.
Mainland-born Lai, who was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a penniless 12-year-old, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing.
His arrest comes amid Beijing’s crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in the city and further stokes concerns about media and other freedoms promised to the former British colony when it returned to China in 1997. China imposed the sweeping new security law on Hong Kong on June 30th, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
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”, said Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia programme coordinator.
Ryan Law, chief editor of Apple Daily, a staunch anti-government and pro-democracy tabloid that also does investigative work, told Reuters the paper would not intimidated. “Business as usual,” he said.
The security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.
Lai, 71, had been a frequent visitor to Washington D.C., where he has met with senior officials order to rally support for Hong Kong's democracy, prompting Beijing to label him a “traitor”
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