Nearly 200 police officers swarmed the offices of Apple Daily, one of Hong Kong’s most-read anti-communist newspapers, on Monday, arresting owner Jimmy Lai, two of his sons, and several other staffers.
Jimmy Lai, already arrested twice already in 2020 for his opposition to Chinese communism, will now reportedly face charges under the “national security” law passed illegally through Beijing’s parliament in May. The law commands a minimum of ten years in prison for anyone found guilty of “terrorism,” “secessionist” crimes, enabling “foreign interference,” or “subverting” state power. As Lai is currently 72 years old, he faces spending the majority of the rest of his life behind bars.
Hong Kong police raided the newspaper office of Jimmy Lai after the media tycoon, an ardent critic of Beijing, was arrested under the new national security law https://t.co/SulI7RKV7w pic.twitter.com/Arsd3N4wtl
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 10, 2020
Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the Communist Party has the power to enforce any laws passed through Beijing. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has nonetheless enforced the “national security” law on the grounds that it is meant to “protect the Chinese homeland” following the Hong Kong legislature failing to pass a controversial law last year that would have allowed police to extradite anyone present in the city into the secretive Chinese prison system. Lam has argued that this thus falls under exercises of sovereignty by China, which the Basic Law allows.
Critics have decried the mass arrests at Apple Daily as the death knell of a free media in Hong Kong.
According to the local broadcaster RTHK, police arrested Lai first at his home before raiding the offices of Next Media, Apple Daily‘s parent company. Police reportedly stormed the scene insisting they had a warrant, but “a staff member then urged them to stop, saying it was unclear what the warrant is about.” At least one reporter confirmed that police never showed those in the office a warrant to confirm the legality of what they were doing. They then brought Lai to the offices while the raid was ongoing.
Prominent Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow looks out of a car window while being driven away by police from her home after she was arrested under the new national security law in Hong Kong late on August 10, 2020.#AFP pic.twitter.com/BQynNEpu6i
— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) August 10, 2020
“According to sources, Lai and his sons were arrested on suspicion of violating Article 29 of the national security law, which prohibits one from conspiring with a foreign country or an institution, organization or individual to wage a war, rig an election, disrupt the implementation of law and policies and provoke hatred among Hong Kong people toward the local and central governments by unlawful means,” Apple Daily noted.
The newspaper said that the raid on its headquarters had lasted six hours at the time of their last published update “with no signs of ending,” according to Breitbart. When it finally ended, Editor-in-Chief Ryan Law reportedly texted an RTHK reported, “business as usual.”
By Monday evening local time, Hong Kong police confirmed the arrests of ten people related to the raid. Police again insisted they showed those in the office a warrant and “asked people inside the building to cooperate with police in carrying out the warrant.”
Jimmy Lai was last arrested in April alongside several other prominent pro-democracy seniors for “illegal assembly,” a response to their presence last year in peaceful protests. Prior to that, Lai was arrested in February on similar charges related to his presence at a different protest than the one he was arrested in April for joining. Unnamed individuals attempted to firebomb his house in September, at the height of protests in the city.
Lai insisted in an interview in June that he would not leave Hong Kong, despite increased repression. “Everything I have was given to me by Hong Kong. I won’t be leaving. I will advance or retreat with the people of Hong Kong,” Lai said, “There are a lot of Hong Kong people who are going to stay here. They will fight this to the end.”