The Courier-Mail

Bei­jing ‘traitor’ Jimmy Lai ar­rested in HK blitz

- Crime · Society · Politics · Asian Politics · Beijing · Jimmy Lai · Hong Kong · Twitter · Gang of Four

HONG KONG: Me­dia mogul Jimmy Lai, one of the city’s most vo­cal Bei­jing crit­ics, was ar­rested on Mon­day un­der a new national se­cu­rity law for col­lud­ing with for­eign forces, deep­en­ing a crack­down on democ­racy sup­port­ers.

“They ar­rested him at his house about 7am.

“Our lawyers are on the way to the po­lice sta­tion,” close aide Mark Si­mon told AFP, adding that other mem­bers of Mr Lai’s me­dia group had also been ar­rested.

A po­lice source speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity told AFP Mr Lai was ar­rested for col­lud­ing with for­eign forces – one of the new national se­cu­rity of­fences – and fraud.

Mr Lai owns the Ap­ple Daily news­pa­per and Next Mag­a­zine, two out­lets un­apolo­get­i­cally pro-democ­racy and crit­i­cal of Bei­jing. On Twitter, Mr Si­mon said of­fi­cers were ex­e­cut­ing search war­rants at Mr Lai’s man­sion and his son’s house.

Few Hongkonger­s gen­er­ate the level of vit­riol from Bei­jing that Mr Lai does. For many res­i­dents of the rest­less semi-au­ton­o­mous city, he is an un­likely hero — a pug­na­cious, self-made tabloid owner and the only ty­coon will­ing to crit­i­cise Bei­jing.

But in China’s state me­dia he is a “traitor”, the biggest “black hand” be­hind last year’s huge pro-democ­racy protests in Hong Kong and the head of a new “Gang of Four” con­spir­ing with for­eign na­tions to un­der­mine the moth­er­land.

Mr Lai spoke to AFP in June, two weeks be­fore the new se­cu­rity law was im­posed on the city. “I’m pre­pared for pri­son,” the 72-year-old said.

“If it comes, I will have the op­por­tu­nity to read books I haven’t read. The only thing I can do is to be pos­i­tive.”

He de­scribed the law as “a death knell for Hong Kong”.

“It will su­per­sede or de­stroy our rule of law and de­stroy our in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial sta­tus,” he said.

He also said he feared au­thor­i­ties would come af­ter his jour­nal­ists.

The se­cu­rity law targets se­ces­sion, sub­ver­sion, ter­ror­ism and col­lud­ing with for­eign forces.

It was brought in to quell last year’s of­ten vi­o­lent protests. China and Hong Kong both said it will not af­fect peo­ple’s free­doms and only targets a mi­nor­ity.

But its broadly worded pro­vi­sions crim­i­nalise cer­tain po­lit­i­cal speech, such as ad­vo­cat­ing for sanc­tions, greater au­ton­omy or in­de­pen­dence for Hong Kong.

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Jimmy Lai

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