Published: Mon, August 10, 2020

Jimmy Lai: Hong Kong's rebel mogul and pro-democracy voice

Jimmy Lai: Hong Kong's rebel mogul and pro-democracy voice

Police in Hong Kong have arrested one of the most prominent figures under the new national security law.

A police source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP Lai was arrested for colluding with foreign forces - one of the new national security offences - and fraud.

It added that the Facebook operator will be suspended with their "consent" and the page will be temporarily updated by admin. "The lawyer is rushing there".

China routinely calls him a a "traitor" and a "black hand" behind last year's protests.

In February, the 71-year-old mogul was charged with illegal assembly and intimidation.

Lai's arrest was first shared by his top aide on Twitter on Monday. Jimmy Lai warned Hong Kong could become as corrupt as China, noting, "without the rule of law, people who do business here will have no protection".

Apple Daily reported that one of Lai's sons, Ian, had also been arrested at his home and later showed his restaurant, Cafe Seasons, being raided by police.

"The establishment hates my guts", Mr Lai previously said in an interview with the New York Times. It said reporters "will continue to guard their posts until the last minute".

The national security law provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment as well as the possibility of prosecution and trial in mainland China for the crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

"China should not treat Hong Kong this way".

The share price of Next Digital soared over 200% in the afternoon, following posts on a popular online forum encouraging investors to support the company by buying its stock.

His two primary titles - the Apple Daily newspaper and the digital-only Next magazine - openly back democracy protests in a city where competitors either support Beijing or tread a far more cautious line.

"I'm prepared for prison", he said.

Monday's newsroom raid comes as reports emerge of a new unit within the Hong Kong Immigration Department that is now vetting foreign journalist work visas.

China enacted the new security law on June 30 in what critics say was an effort to answer anti-government protests in Hong Kong previous year. However, Lai has also been a consistent supporter of democracy and a critic of the Chinese government and its meddling in Hong Kong.

He also feared for his journalists.

The officials shrugged off the sanctions, which may have limited practical effect, with one saying that being named by the USA showed that he was doing the right thing for Hong Kong and China.

"We urge the authorities to review these cases to ensure that the arrests do not impinge on the exercise of rights protected by the worldwide human rights law and Hong Kong' s Basic Law", Jeremy Laurence, spokesman for the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, said in an email reply to Reuters.

In Beijing, China announced sanctions on 11 Americans, including six members of Congress, in an escalating battle between the two nations over technology, security, trade and human rights.

The arrests brought strong condemnation from foreign governments.

Experts say it fundamentally changes Hong Kong, ending the democratic freedoms that have been in place in the semi-autonomous city for decades.

Last week, the United States announced sanctions against 11 Chinese officials, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, accusing them of curtailing the city's autonomy and violating the rights of its citizens amid the anti-Beijing protests there. The veteran rights activist said the charge against him "is little more than an effort to distract attention from [China's] wholesale assault on the rights of the people of Hong Kong".

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