Released tycoon Lai says Hong Kong needs patient, not radical, democracy campaign

Clay Curtis
August 14, 2020

Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai is released on bail in the early hours of Wednesday.

China's security office in Hong Kong says it supports the arrests this week of a newspaper founder and nine pro-democracy activists in the territory.

The new national security law was imposed by Beijing on June 30.

The law criminalizes anti-China sentiments in the region, which continued to serve as a vibrant economic hub after the United Kingdom handed it over to Beijing in 1997 under a vow that it would enjoy a "high level of autonomy" for 50 years. Twitter users in Japan also expressed delight at Chow's subsequent release on bail.

The move against Mr. Lai and his newspaper comes amid Beijing's crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in the city and further stokes concerns that media and other promised freedoms would be compromised when Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.

"Fight on! Let's fight on", he said. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on July 31 announced that she would postpone the upcoming elections for one year, citing the CCP Virus outbreak.

According to Section 50 (7) of the Police Force Ordinance, officers may enter premises to search people with warrants, but it does not grant them the power to see material of "journalistic material".

Having made his initial fortune in the clothing industry, he later ventured into media and founded Apple Daily, which is frequently critical of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese leadership.

Lai, 71, said he was anxious he could be sent to the mainland, where the legal system has fewer protections.

China has declared it will have jurisdiction over especially serious national security crimes, toppling the legal firewall between the mainland's party-controlled courts and Hong Kong's independent judiciary. Law was one of many people interviewed.

The law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

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But the broadly worded provisions outlawed 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.

Mr Lai was arrested on Monday, and his newspaper offices raided by hundreds of police, in scenes that shocked many.

They say the group were involved in lobbying for foreign sanctions before the security law was passed and that they continued to operate in some form once the legislation came in.

"We thought they might arrest our boss someday, but no one expected 200 police officers rushing into our office and going through stuff on our desks", said a journalist at the Apple Daily, who declined to be named.

Both his sons were also arrested on "bogus charges", he said, although he added that he had no regrets about his pro-democracy activism. Many of those claiming asylum face charges in Hong Kong in connection with the protests.

"The future is hard, but the spirit of defiance is alive and strong among Hong Kongers, including journalists".

Hong Kong is a major media hub with a vibrant local press and multiple global news outlets operating regional headquarters in the city.

The city's ranking on the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index has already fallen from 18th in 2002 to 73rd in 2019.

Local media reported that a new unit has been set up in Hong Kong's immigration department to vet visa applications for foreign journalists.

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