Pro-democracy media tycoon freed on bail amid Hong Kong crackdown
Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai (C) is released on bail from the Mong Kok police station in the early morning in Hong Kong on August 12, 2020, after the Apple Daily founder was arrested under the new national security law. Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai walked free on bail on August 12, over a day after he and other critics of China were rounded up by police as part of a widening crackdown on dissent. When Lai left a police station he was swarmed by dozens of cheering supporters, some of whom waved copies of his Apple Daily in a show of support.
AFP/Isaac Lawrence
Pro-democracy media tycoon freed on bail amid Hong Kong crackdown
Daniel Suen (Agence France-Presse) - August 12, 2020 - 7:51am

HONG KONG, China — Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai walked free on bail Wednesday, over 40 hours after he and other critics of China were rounded up by police as part of a widening crackdown on dissent.

When Lai left a police station he was swarmed by a crowd of journalists and cheering supporters, some of whom waved copies of his Apple Daily in a show of their backing.

A clampdown has gathered pace in Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping security law in June, with opposition politicians disqualified and activists arrested for social media posts.

The moves have provoked outrage in the West and fear for millions who last year took to the streets to protest communist China's tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.

In one of the most dramatic days of the crackdown, Lai was among 10 people detained under the new law on Monday as around 200 police officers searched the newsroom of his tabloid, which is unapologetically critical of Beijing.

Lai did not address the crowd upon his release, but he flashed a thumbs up as he was bundled into a car that inched away through the crowd.

In a display of solidarity for Lai, people in the city rushed to buy Tuesday's Apple Daily, with the newspaper saying it had upped its print run to 550,000 from the normal circulation of 70,000.

One restaurant owner bought 50 copies at a newsstand in the commercial district of Mong Kok and said he planned to give them away free of charge.

"Since the government doesn't allow Apple Daily to survive, then we as Hong Kongers have to save it ourselves," the man, who gave his surname as Ng, told AFP, as dozens of people lined up around the city from the early hours.

The newspaper's front page showed a picture of Lai being led away in handcuffs, with the headline "Apple will fight on".

Lai's arrest sparked a buying spree in shares of his media group, and between Monday morning and closing time on Tuesday its stock value had risen by more than 1,100 percent.

'Eviscerated'

Hong Kong's new national security law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.

The most serious crimes under the law -- which was introduced on June 30 and is not supposed to be retroactive -- carry up to life in jail.

Its broadly worded provisions criminalised certain political speech overnight, such as advocating sanctions, and greater autonomy or independence for Hong Kong.

Similar laws are used on the authoritarian mainland to snuff out opposition.

Lai, 71, was held on charges including colluding with foreign forces and fraud. The operation was hailed by Beijing, quick to declare him an "anti-China rabble-rouser" who conspired with foreigners to "stir up chaos".

Among the others arrested were two of Lai's sons, young pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow and Wilson Li, a former activist who works as a freelancer for Britain's ITV News.

Chow was released on bail late Tuesday.

"It's very obvious that the regime and the government are using the national security law to suppress political dissidents," she told reporters after her release.

'Barbarous' sanctions

Critics believe the security law has ended the key liberties and autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong could keep after its 1997 handover by Britain.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Lai's arrest as "further proof" that Chinese authorities had "eviscerated Hong Kong's freedoms and eroded the rights of its people".

"We're going to respond in real ways," Pompeo later promised in an interview with Newsmax.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials -- including city leader Carrie Lam -- in response to the crackdown.

Hong Kong's police said those arrested were part of a group that had previously lobbied for foreign sanctions.

In response to objections made by Hong Kong's Foreign Correspondents' Club to the arrests, the Chinese foreign ministry warned that "eagerly justifying Jimmy Lai is nothing short of siding with the forces sowing trouble in Hong Kong and China at large".

"We call on the FCC, Hong Kong to respect the facts, distinguish right from wrong, and stop smearing under the pretext of press freedom the implementation of the National Security Law," it said.

HONG KONG JIMMY LAI
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 24, 2020 - 7:56pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

September 24, 2020 - 7:56pm

The European Union on Thursday criticised the arrest of prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, saying it was "troubling" and undermined trust in China.

The 23-year-old's detention for for "unlawful assembly" over a 2019 demonstration comes after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June.

"The arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on 24 September is the latest in a troubling series of arrests of pro-democracy activists since the summer," an EU spokesperson said, calling for "very careful scrutiny" by the judiciary.

"Developments in Hong Kong call into question China's will to uphold its international commitments, undermine trust and impact EU-China relations."

The EU has repeatedly voiced concern at the new Hong Kong security law, which critics say erodes important freedoms in the city. — AFP

September 16, 2020 - 6:24pm

A Swiss photographer who closed a door on a Chinese mainlander moments before he was assaulted during last year's Hong Kong democracy protests should not be held responsible for the attack, his lawyers argued Wednesday.

Marc Progin, a long-time Hong Kong resident, is facing up to a year in jail for "aiding and abetting public disorder" over the incident in which JP Morgan employee Lin Nan was punched.

Footage of Progin closing the door moments before a masked man assaulted Lin went viral and caused widespread anger in mainland China. 

Prosecutors said Progin, 75, deliberately shut a door leading to JP Morgan's regional headquarters as an argument broke out between a crowd of pro-democracy supporters and Lin last October. 

They argued his actions effectively enabled the assault on Lin and that Progin therefore took part in the unfolding public disorder. 

Defense lawyers said Progin was simply doing his job and that he closed the door to get a better angle to capture the argument through his lens.

Defense counsel Michael Delaney said Progin had no intention to "stop, block or obstruct" Lin and that the behavior of the crowd had nothing to do with Progin. — AFP

September 15, 2020 - 3:18pm

Hong Kong activists shouted anti-government slogans outside court on Tuesday as more than two dozen high profile democracy campaigners appeared over a banned vigil to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies on June 4 to mark the anniversary of Beijing's deadly suppression of students pushing for democracy.

The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds, but this year's gathering was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures — even though local transmission had largely been halted.

The group of defendants represents a broad section of the pro-democracy movement, from 72-year-old media mogul Jimmy Lai to younger campaigners such as Joshua Wong. — AFP

September 6, 2020 - 3:08pm

An opposition activist was arrested in Hong Kong on Sunday by a new police squad for "uttering seditious words", hours before a rally against a controversial security law.

The arrest of Tam Tak-chi, vice president of radical democratic party People Power, is the latest detention of a high profile democracy supporter in the financial hub and came on the morning Hongkongers had been due to vote in a general election, delayed because of the coronavirus.

An unauthorized protest in opposition to a new law that gives authorities sweeping powers — as well as the poll's postponement and a Beijing-backed Covid-19 testing program — had more than 10,000 online subscribers.

Tam, a former radio presenter known "Fast Beat", was arrested at his home in north east Hong Kong by police officers from the national security squad, although he was not detained under the new law, police said. — AFP

August 12, 2020 - 7:46am

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been released from police custody, over a day after being detained under a sweeping security law imposed by China, an AFP journalist saw.

Lai walked free from a Hong Kong police station at roughly midnight (1600 GMT) as cheering supporters greeted his release. — AFP

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