Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai—a leading pro-democracy figure and founder of the popular local newspaper Apple Daily—was arrested on Monday, August 10, for suspected collusion with foreign forces under the city’s national security law.
The billionaire is considered to be the most high-profile person arrested in connection with the new law.
Top aide Mark Simon shared the news of Lai’s arrest on Twitter on Monday morning.
Simon said that police were searching Lai’s home, as well as the home of his son, and had taken other members of Lai’s media group in for questioning.
Police also swarmed the outlet’s Tseung Kwan O office on Monday morning. Apple Daily said police conducted a search of the building without a warrant and required employees to show identification.
Reporters from Apple Daily live-streamed the police raid of its newsroom to Facebook. The video has since garnered thousands of comments and reactions.
Hong Kong Police Force responded to news of the raid on Twitter, saying that they had obtained a search warrant “to gather evidence for offenses related to National Security Law.”
The contentious law bans the promotion of secession, subversion and foreign interference, and threatens a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It has already been used to arrest dozens of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong over the last month.
“This is the end of press freedom and the darkest day for journalists,” leading pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted on Monday following Lai’s arrest.
In a June 30 interview, Lai told the BBC that the national security law would “spell the death knell to Hong Kong.”
“Without the rule of law, people who do business in Hong Kong will have no protections,” he told the BBC last month.
Lai has been targeted for his pro-democracy activism in the past. In 2015, firebombs were thrown near Lai’s home and near the offices of his media company, Next Media Group.
Lai’s arrest follows charges laid out against 24 pro-democracy activists last week for taking part in an “unauthorized” vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson told VICE News last week that the actions of Hong Kong authorities reflect a “growing intolerance for peaceful assembly and expression.”
Earlier this month, 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from taking part in this year’s Legislative Council elections. The Hong Kong government said that they did not comply with the Legislative Council requirements and had voiced opposition to the new national security law.
Cover: Screenshot via Apple Daily