Hong Kong police on Monday arrested media mogul Jimmy Lai and searched the offices of his flagship newspaper, Apple Daily, in the most high-profile case to date against democracy activists in the former British colony under a national security law, which has heightened tensions between the United States and China.
In a statement, Hong Kong police reported the arrest of seven people in total, ranging in age from 39 to 72, on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces to threaten national security and for conspiracy to commit fraud. The combative newspaper founded by Lai – known for its critical articles on Hong Kong and mainland China affairs – reported that among those arrested were the magnate’s sons.
“The crimes include collusion with a foreign country to endanger national security, Article 29 of the NSL.. The investigation is ongoing,” the force posted on its official Twitter account. Section 29 deals with alleged offences, including receiving any support – direct or indirect – from persons abroad, and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Apple Daily reported that 10 police officers arrived at the 72-year-old businessman’s home at around 7am local time, and later began broadcasting live a raid on his headquarters where dozens of police could be seen going through piles of papers and even on reporters’ desks.
The raid on the newspaper, Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy newspaper, and the arrest of Jimmy Lai and senior executives, were condemned by activists and journalists, who said these events marked the day when press freedom officially died.