Jimmy Lai, Agnes Chow nabbed as Hong Kong cracks down on dissidents

At least nine people – including prominent activist Agnes Chow and media mogul Jimmy Lai – were detained by Hong Kong police on Monday on suspicion of breaching the city’s new national security law, as Beijing further tightened its hold on the city.

Police announced the arrests on Twitter, but did not release the names of the suspects. However, Chow and Lai managed to document their detentions with the help of friends and colleagues.

Lai’s sons, Timothy and Ian, and several senior executives at the newspaper’s publishing company were also arrested as part of the latest crackdown, according to Lai’s newspaper, Apple Daily.

Videographer Wilson Li, who works for British broadcaster ITV, was also among those arrested, according to a tweet by Hong Kong reporter Ezra Cheung.

READ>>>Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai arrested

The national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing came into force on June 30, the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the handover of the ex-British colony back to China.

It targets secession, acts of terrorism, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and is widely seen as ending the One Country, Two Systems agreement that guaranteed Hong Kong extra freedoms until 2047, part of the conditions for Britain returning the colony to China in 1997.

Sentences for violation of the law range from three to 10 years or, for the most serious offences, life imprisonment.

The law has garnered widespread international criticism which has resulted in countries including Britain, the United States and Germany announcing the suspension of their extradition treaties with the territory.

An outspoken China critic, Lai’s detention was the first to be reported. The stated offences include collusion with a foreign country, police said.

Apple Daily posted footage on social media of dozens of police officers entering the Next Media Building, the newspaper’s headquarters, with images showing police searching news rooms.

Steve Li, the chief superintendent of the national security law, was seen in live footage filmed by Apple Daily staff at the scene.

Next Digital, the group founded by Lai issued a statement accusing police of using “barbaric tactics.”

It accused police of “rifling through documents in the newsroom” of “breaching press freedom through intimidation” and “creating an atmosphere of ‘white terror'” – the name used by locals to refer to Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.

“In the face of these barbaric tactics, the staff of Apple Daily will stay fearless and continue speaking the truth amid persecution,” the group said.

Amnesty International issued a statement saying that targeting a pro-democracy newspaper threatens press freedom.

“The arrest of Jimmy Lai for allegedly ‘colluding with foreign powers’ is a disturbing demonstration of how the Hong Kong authorities intend to use the new national security law to threaten press freedom,” Asia-Pacific Regional Director Nicholas Bequelin said.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong, also strongly condemned the raid.

“Mainland and Hong Kong officials have given repeated assurances that the new law will target only a tiny number of offenders and that Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms, including freedom of the press, would go unhindered,” they said. “Today’s police action upends those assurances.”

Shares of Lai’s company, Next Digital, skyrocketed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange during Monday’s afternoon trading session, rising as much as 345 per cent.

The arrest of Chow, of the disbanded group Demosisto, was announced by Joshua Wong, another well-known activist from the disbanded group. He posted a screenshot Chow had posted on Twitter reading “police had arrived at her house” and “her lawyers were rushing there.”

Demosisto, a pro-democracy political group, disbanded on June 30 after Beijing rushed through the new national security law.

Nathan Law, also a former member of the group, fled Hong Kong and currently has a warrant issued for his arrest.

The European Union’s foreign policy arm also raised concerns about the arrests.

“The recent arrests of Jimmy Lai, members of his family and other individuals, and the raid on the offices of newspaper Apple Daily, under allegations of collusion with foreign forces, further stoke fears that the National Security Law is being used to stifle freedom of expression and of the media in Hong Kong,” foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano said in a statement.

The US has placed sanctions on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other officials for “implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”

China responded on Monday with a list of sanctions against 11 US citizens it said had “behaved badly” regarding Hong Kong.


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