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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested

Jimmy Lai,Hong Kong media tycoon known for his support of the city’s pro-democracy movement and criticism of China has been arrested early Monday, on suspicion of “colluding” with foreign forces, according to local police.

Lai’s Apple Daily reported that 10 police officers arrived at the 72-year-old’s home at about 7am (23:00 GMT on Sunday), and later raided the newsroom as per a live stream uploaded to Facebook by Apple Daily showing police who could be seen looking through piles of papers including on reporters’ desks.

Seven men in all, aged between 39 and 72, were arrested, according to a police statement, on charges including collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security, and conspiracy to commit fraud,among them Lai and several top executives at Apple Daily.

Under the new security law, imposed on the city by Beijing last month, the offense of colluding with foreign powers carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.The law criminalized subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. 

The Hong Kong government has defended the law as necessary to protect national security.However, It has been denounced by human rights groups, the European Union, and the United States as overly broad and restrictive of the city’s civil liberties.

 

Lai’s arrest also comes as tensions between the United State and China over the national security law continue to escalate. Washington imposed sanctions Friday against Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and 10 other Chinese and Hong Kong officials ,accusing them of curtailing the territory’s freedoms.
Lai founded Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper in 1995, two years before Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese control.The paper has become one of the fiercest critics of the local government and Beijing and has openly supported the pro-democracy movement and anti-government protests, printing flyers and posters in its pages that people can cut out and take to marches.
Lai’s relationship with politicians in the United States,including Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then National Security Adviser John Bolton,who he met in July last year,has been used by Chinese state media to paint the entire protest movement, along with Apple Daily and similar media, as US-controlled.

This isn’t Lai’s first clash with Hong Kong authorities. He was arrested and faced charges earlier this year in connection with a protest march in August 2019. In June, Lai was charged with inciting people to take part in an unauthorized assembly over an annual candlelight vigil in remembrance of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The vigil was banned by police this year.

His current arrest has been criticized by many who fear that the National Security law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom.

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