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