Shares in Lai’s Next Dig­i­tal soar in wake of Hong Kong ar­rest

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

Si­mon Foy

SHARES in one of Hong Kong’s big­gest me­dia firms soared af­ter pro-democ­racy sym­pa­this­ers flocked to sup­port its founder Jimmy Lai fol­low­ing his ar­rest un­der a con­tro­ver­sial new se­cu­rity law in the city.

Next Dig­i­tal stock sky­rock­eted by 260pc af­ter dis­mayed ac­tivists used the former Bri­tish colony’s LIHKG web fo­rum to call on in­vestors to sup­port the com­pany, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Ex­change.

Trad­ing vol­umes in the com­pany also rose sud­denly amid the wave of po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

Mr Lai was ar­rested yes­ter­day along with other ex­ec­u­tives of the com­pany and his two sons in the high­est-pro­file de­ten­tions since the dra­co­nian se­cu­rity law was im­posed by Bei­jing’s Com­mu­nist rulers in June.

Hong Kong po­lice said the men had been ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of “col­lud­ing with for­eign pow­ers”, and raided the pub­lisher’s head­quar­ters. Their ac­tions are likely to fuel fresh fears that Hong Kong is be­com­ing a po­lice state in which Western busi­ness prac­tices and free­doms will not be tol­er­ated. Some com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing large banks, have faced crit­i­cism in the West for sup­port­ing the new laws.

The crack­down comes days af­ter the US gov­ern­ment an­nounced sanc­tions on Hong Kong and main­land China of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Car­rie Lam, the city state’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, in a move likely to fur­ther strain re­la­tions even fur­ther be­tween the two su­per­pow­ers, who have been en­gaged in a fierce trade war in re­cent years.

A sea­soned pro-democ­racy cam­paigner who owns pop­u­lar tabloid Ap­ple Daily, Mr Lai wrote an op-ed in The

New York Times ear­lier this year stat­ing that China was re­press­ing Hong Kong with the se­cu­rity law.

He wrote: “I have al­ways thought I might one day be sent to jail for my pub­li­ca­tions or for my calls for democ­racy in Hong Kong. But for a few tweets, and be­cause they are said to threaten the na­tional se­cu­rity of mighty China? That’s a new one, even for me.”

Mr Lai was ar­rested in Fe­bru­ary and April for al­legedly tak­ing part in last year’s unau­tho­rised protests. He also faces charges for join­ing in with a vigil in June to mark the an­niver­sary of Bei­jing’s mas­sacre of Tianan­men Square protesters in 1989.

Mr Lai, 71, founded Next Dig­i­tal in 1990. The com­pany pub­lishes Ap­ple

Daily and Next Magazine, two of the city’s most pop­u­lar pub­li­ca­tions.

Ap­ple Daily’s of­fices were also raided, but bosses at the pro-democ­racy pa­per vowed to keep pub­lish­ing.

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