With the arrests of a newspaper tycoon and a pro-democracy activist, Hong Kong authorities are testing the limits of the city’s new “national security” law.
On Monday, Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, a prominent pro-democracy newspaper, and Agnes Chow, leading pro-democracy activist, were arrested on suspicion of violating the law. Lai has been accused of “colluding with foreign forces” while Chow, 23, has been accused of “inciting secession.” Both of these acts are considered criminal under the new law, and both Lai and Chow could face life in prison.
In the morning, police arrested Lai at his home while 200 officers raided his newspaper’s offices. Documents and research materials were confiscated from reporters. Lai’s two sons and four of his employees were arrested as well. In response, Apple Daily printed 200,000 more copies of its next paper than it normally would. Readers began to line up overnight, just to get their hands on a copy.
It’s 2am in #Hongkong. There is a long line of people queuing up for the first batch of @appledaily_hk in Mongkok. We are livestreaming, and 6500 people are watching. I guess no one is getting much sleep tonight. pic.twitter.com/xdfnxdcvLg
— Alex Lam 林偉聰 (@lwcalex) August 10, 2020
Chow was also arrested at her home. Officers marched her in handcuffs out to a van, where with a mask-covered face and wide eyes, she looked back at a swarm of reporters one final time. Chow left the pro-democracy student group Demosisto after the law was implemented and didn’t post again on Twitter, suggesting that the law may be retroactive despite Hong Kong officials originally saying it would not be applied retroactively.
— Satish Cheney (@SatishCheney) August 10, 2020
The “national security” law, implemented by China for the city several weeks ago, criminalizes secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces, and terrorism. Because the law is written so vaguely, authorities have been able to use it to crack down on dissidents.
While many have already been arrested under the law, Monday’s arrests are the most high-profile so far.
Joshua Wong, the 23-year-old who has become the de facto face of the Hong Kong protest movement, posted a video on Facebook Monday.
“Hong Kongers will not surrender,” he said. “Now is not just a fight for democracy and liberty but also a battle between truth and lies. Now is the most urgent situation in Hong Kong. I hope that this is not the last video before I am arrested in the upcoming future. Perhaps the time for me to continue to fight for freedom in Hong Kong is already counting down, but no matter what happens, as a Hong Konger, I love Hong Kong a lot, and I will continue my commitment. My commitment to the democracy movement until the day we see the brighter future in our homeland.”
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