HONG KONG – Hong Kong mogul Jimmy Lai was arrested on Monday, August 10, and his press group raided on behalf of the controversial security law, a new step in Beijing’s strong takeover of the former British colony. . .
The wealthy septuagenarian was arrested at his home around 7 am (1 am in Paris on the night from Sunday to Monday, ndlr), Mark Simon, one of his closest associates, told AFP, adding that other members of his press group had also been arrested.
In a statement, the police said seven arrests were suspected of collusion with foreign forces, one of the crimes covered by the National Security Law that was imposed in late June by Beijing, and fraud.
Seen as Beijing’s response to months of pro-democracy protests that rocked the former British colony in 2019, the law gives authorities new powers to crack down on four types of crimes against state security: subversion, subversion, separatism, terrorism and collusion with external forces.
Live arrests on Facebook
Many pro-democracy activists denounce a liberticidal text that puts an end to the principle “One country, two systems” that had governed the transfer in 1997 and theoretically guarantees until 2047 the people of Hong Kong freedoms unknown in the rest of China.
Jimmy Lai is the head of Next Media, which includes the Apple Daily and Next magazine, two titles openly pro-democracy and critical of Beijing.
At the end of the morning, dozens of police officers arrived at the headquarters of the press group, in an industrial park in the Lohas Park district. Apple Daily reporters broadcast images of the search live on Facebook. In the pictures, the editor of the Law Wai-kwong newspaper appears asking the police for their court order.
“Tell your colleagues not to touch anything until our attorneys verify the order,” said his intimate Law Wai-kwong.
A self made man opposite to Beijing
Police officers ordered reporters to stand up and line up for identity checks, while others searched the newsroom. And Jimmy Lai was brought to the scene. His collaborator Mark Simon said on Twitter that searches had also been made of the mogul’s and his son’s home.
For many Hong Kongers committed to the pro-democracy movement, Jimmy Lai is a hero, a tabloid press chief who has built his fortune alone, and the only Hong Kong press chief to stand up to the Chinese central power.
Few Hong Kongers attract as much hatred from Beijing as Jimmy Lai, who is often called a “traitor” by Chinese state media, accusing him of being the instigator of the 2019 protest. Accusations of collusion with a foreign power doubled last year. , when Jimmy Lai met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.
Formed by Tiananmen
Two weeks before the security law was imposed in Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai had told AFP in an interview that he was “ready” to go to jail. “If necessary, I will be able to read books that I have not read,” he said. “The only thing I can do is stay positive.”
He brushed aside allegations of collusion and explained that Hong Kong people have the right to meet foreign politicians. Jimmy Lai is the archetype of self made man. She landed illegally in Hong Kong with her family at the age of 12, aboard a ship from Canton. He started working as a laborer in a textile factory, then in his early thirties, he learned English and opened his own textile business. It was the repression of the Tiananmen uprising 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 children told AFP a few years ago. “I don’t want my children, my grandchildren, to think that their father and grandfather were rich, but that he was an idiot. I can’t count on my money to be happy ”.
In his interview with AFP in late June, he explained that the security law “would spell the end of Hong Kong” and said he feared authorities would prosecute his journalists. The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities have claimed that this controversial text would have no impact on freedoms in the semi-autonomous territory and only targeted a minority of people.
The weeks after its adoption, however, confirmed a brutal tension in Hong Kong, with increased repression against members of the democracy movement.
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