HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police on Monday arrested seven individuals, together with Jimmy Lai, the media tycoon and critic of the Chinese language Communist Social gathering, on costs of violating the territory’s new nationwide safety legislation, making him probably the most high-profile goal of the sweeping laws imposed by Beijing.
Mr. Lai’s arrest highlighted considerations by activists and opposition figures that the brand new safety legislation could be used to silence essential voices and curb the town’s freewheeling press as a part of a broader transfer in opposition to democracy advocates.
Mr. Lai’s firm, Subsequent Digital, publishes Apple Each day, a fiercely pro-democracy newspaper that frequently takes on the Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese language management. He is often denounced by Chinese language officers, pro-Beijing information retailers in Hong Kong and China’s state-run information media.
The newspaper livestreamed video footage of greater than 100 law enforcement officials turning up in force and raiding Subsequent Digital’s headquarters on Monday morning. Officers had been seen rifling via papers on journalists’ desks as Mr. Lai and the company’s chief executive, Cheung Kim-hung, had been led via the workplaces in handcuffs. Officers cordoned off Mr. Lai’s workplace and several other reporters’ cubicles for searches, photos shared on social media showed.
Apple Each day reported that Mr. Lai, 72, was being investigated on costs of collusion with a overseas nation or exterior parts. Mark Simon, a senior government with Subsequent Digital, stated that Mr. Lai’s two sons had additionally been arrested. They had been being investigated for violations of the corporate enterprise code. He famous that Mr. Lai’s sons weren’t affiliated with Apple Each day, which means that the authorities had been investigating Mr. Lai’s non-public investments. Quite a few senior Subsequent Digital workers had been additionally being questioned at their houses, Mr. Simon stated.
When a reporter requested Mr. Lai concerning the arrest and the raid, he replied, “How ought to I give it some thought?”
Radio Tv Hong Kong, a government-funded broadcaster that has drawn fire for its aggressive protection of the police, stated on Monday that its reporters had been briefly blocked from a police briefing on the scene. RTHK said it had been told by the authorities that information retailers that had obstructed the police previously weren’t allowed to attend. The data couldn’t be independently verified. A lot of the world surrounding Apple Each day’s headquarters had been cordoned off and journalist entry restricted.
The police stated in a statement on Fb that officers had entered a constructing in Tseung Kwan O, the placement of Apple Each day’s headquarters, with a search warrant with a view to examine nationwide safety offenses. An Apple Each day reporter stated that law enforcement officials had loaded luggage of paperwork taken from the constructing onto a truck.
Livestream footage additionally confirmed plainclothes officers at a special location, a restaurant within the Central district owned by one in all Mr. Lai’s sons. They eliminated a crate full of digital seized gadgets and loaded the crate into a personal car. They didn’t reply when reporters requested whether or not they had been nationwide safety officers and whether or not they had search warrants.
The brand new safety legislation has left Hong Kong residents scrambling to erase their digital footprints of messages that beforehand expressed help for democracy within the territory. Shops and different companies additionally pulled down posters backing the democracy motion.
Final month, Hong Kong barred 12 pro-democracy candidates like Joshua Wong from an upcoming legislative election and postponed the election by a 12 months, citing the coronavirus pandemic. Many within the opposition camp stated the transfer was probably made to forestall a defeat of pro-Beijing candidates.
The crackdown in Hong Kong has spurred different governments to take motion: Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong, citing considerations across the new safety legislation. China has retaliated in variety.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the US said in a joint statement on Sunday that they had been “gravely involved by the Hong Kong authorities’s unjust disqualification of candidates” and by the safety legislation, which was “eroding the Hong Kong individuals’s basic rights and liberties.”
On Friday, the Trump administration sanctioned Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief government, and 10 different senior officers over their roles in suppressing dissent.
Mr. Lai was previously arrested in February and accused of collaborating in an unauthorized protest final 12 months. He faces costs for becoming a member of an unauthorized vigil on June four to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown by Beijing.
The police have additionally arrested about 15 individuals below the safety legislation, together with a number of who participated in protests and 4 activists accused of posting messages on-line. One individual, a person who collided with the police whereas driving a motorbike with a flag that learn, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Occasions,” was charged with inciting secession and terrorism.
It was not instantly clear precisely what particular motion by Mr. Lai led to his arrest.
He traveled to Washington final 12 months and met with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, amongst others. The nationwide safety legislation stipulates, nevertheless, that it may be utilized solely to actions that happen after it went into pressure, on the finish of June.
Mr. Lai beforehand stated he believed the brand new legislation could be used in opposition to him.
“I’ve at all times thought I would at some point be sent to jail for my publications or for my requires democracy in Hong Kong,” he wrote in an Op-Ed article for The New York Times. “However for a number of tweets, and since they’re stated to threaten the nationwide safety of mighty China? That’s a brand new one, even for me.”