The Chinese authorities believe that “these anti-Chinese agitators together with foreign forces have seriously endangered national security.”
The Hong Kong press mogul Jimmy Lai and activist Agnes Chow were arrested on Monday in the name of the controversial national security law imposed by Beijing, a new step in the muscular recovery of this former British colony. The wealthy septuagenarian was arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, one of the offenses covered by the new security legislation which entered into force at the end of June, and of fraud. China officially welcomed the arrest.
“These anti-Chinese agitators together with foreign forces have seriously endangered national security“Jimmy Lai is one of their representatives,” the Chinese office responsible for monitoring the situation in Hong Kong and Macau said in a statement.
Agnes Chow was arrested under the same national security law, a police source said. “It is now confirmed that Agnes Chow was arrested for ‘inciting secession’ under the National Security Act,” the well-known activist’s Facebook account can also be read. In total, according to this police source, ten people were arrested on Monday.
They also include two of the sons of Lai and Wilson Li, who claims to be a freelance videographer working for UK TV channel ITV News.
A “liberticide” law
Seen as Beijing’s response to months of pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019, recently introduced legislation gives local authorities new powers to crack down on four types of crimes against state security: subversion , separatism, terrorism and collusion with outside forces.
Many activists for democracy denounce a liberticidal text which, according to them, comes to an end with the principle “One country, two systems” which presided over the handover in 1997 and theoretically guaranteeing until 2047 to the Hong Kongers freedoms unknown in the rest of the country. China.
Jimmy Lai is the boss of Next Digital, owner of two titles critical of the Chinese regime, the Apple Daily and the magazine Next.
At the end of the morning, around 200 police officers arrived at the group’s headquarters, in an industrial area in the Lohas Park district (south-east). Apple Daily journalists broadcast the images of the search live on Facebook: the editor-in-chief of the daily Law Wai-kwong appears in it asking the police for their warrant. The latter ordered reporters to stand up and line up for identity checks, while others searched the newsroom. And Lai was brought to the scene, handcuffed.
Chris Yeung, president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, called the police operation “shocking and terrifying”. “It’s unprecedented and it was unimaginable a month or two ago,” he told AFP.
Law Wai-kwonga, for his part, sent a note to his journalists in which he asked them to remain at their posts to allow the release of the next edition of the newspaper. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong considered that this police raid marked “a new dark phase”.
Chris Patten, the final British governor of this territory, accused the authorities of carrying out “the most scandalous assault on what remains of the free press in Hong Kong”, while the European Union denounced Monday the use of new security law to “stifle freedom of expression”.
“Ready” to go to jail
For many Hong Kongers committed to the movement in favor of democracy, Lai is the only Hong Kong magnate who stands up to the central power. Few of the inhabitants of the former British colony have drawn such hatred from Beijing as much as this now 71-year-old man, regularly described as a “traitor” by the Chinese state media, which sees him as the instigator of the 2019 protest.
Charges of collusion with a foreign power redoubled last year, when he met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence. Two weeks before the security law was imposed on Hong Kong, Lai said in an interview with AFP that he was “ready” to go to jail.
This press boss is the archetype of the self-made man. He landed illegally in Hong Kong with his family at the age of 12, aboard a boat from Canton. He started working as a small hand in a factory, then, in his early thirties, learned English and opened his own textile business. It was the crackdown on the Tiananmen uprising in Beijing in 1989 that transformed his political vision, and in 1990 he founded Next Media. “As long as I am alive, Next Media will not change,” this father of six told AFP a few years ago.
In his interview at the end of June with AFP, he explained that the security law would “sound the death knell for Hong Kong”. The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities had on the contrary assured that it would have no impact on freedoms in this semi-autonomous territory.
Pompeo “deeply concerned”
This Monday Mike Pompeo said he was “deeply concerned” by the arrest of the press magnate. “I am deeply concerned about the information about the arrest of @JimmyLaiApple under the draconian national security law,” the US secretary of state tweeted.
This arrest is “further proof that the Chinese Communist Party has gutted Hong Kong’s freedoms and the rights of its people,” Pompeo added.
US Vice President Mike Pence told him on Twitter “an affront to freedom-loving people around the world.” “The United States will continue to support Jimmy Lai and all freedom-loving Hong Kong people,” he added.