Source: Hong Kong Watch/David Alton
Campaigners have strongly condemned the arrest of Jimmy Lai, a Catholic and proprietor of Next Digital and the Apple Daily newspaper, along with his sons and senior colleagues.
Jimmy Lai is one of Hong Kong's most high-profile entrepreneurs, who founded the retail chain Giordano, as well as the Next Digital media group and Apple Daily, Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy Chinese-language newspaper. In 2019 Mr Lai met US Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.
Lord Patten of Barnes, the last Governor of Hong Kong and a patron of Hong Kong Watch, said: "The arrests of Jimmy Lai, his sons, and his media colleagues, and the raid by more than 100 police officers of the headquarters of his media group, are a further major attack on Hong Kong's freedoms and way of life. This is the most outrageous assault yet on what is left of Hong Kong's free press. It will cause considerable anxiety to all who consider freedom of opinion and freedom of the press to be essential for Hong Kong's survival as an international financial hub. The arrests will be regarded by a growing number of people as another large step towards turning Hong Kong into a replica of Beijing's police state."
Benedict Rogers, co-founder and Chair of Hong Kong Watch, says: "The arrest of Jimmy Lai, his sons and colleagues is one of the most brazen assaults on basic freedom of expression and freedom of the press since the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party on 1 July. To arrest one of the most moderate, peaceful and internationally respected voices for democracy in Hong Kong - on charges of 'collusion' with foreign powers - sends the message that no one is safe in Hong Kong unless they stay completely silent and do exactly as Xi Jinping's brutal regime says. The international community cannot let this stand. Unless the Chinese Communist Party regime steps back from the brink, it has put itself on a collision course with the free world. In light of these arrests, I urge the United Kingdom and all democracies to follow the recent action by the United States and impose immediate targeted Magnitsky sanctions against Hong Kong's Chief Executive, senior government and police officials and Chinese government officials, for flagrant violations of human rights and of an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration."
Lord Alton commented: "Jimmy Lai's arrest vividly illustrates the way in which the Chinese Communist Party will use its new Security Law to drive a stake into the very heart of Kong Kong's freedoms and liberties, most notably the freedom of the press and anyone who dares to express support for democracy and free speech. The arrest of a leading dissident voice, along with members of his family, is straight out of the Communist Party hand-book - a favourite ploy of Mao and Stalin - designed to terrorise and engender fear. When a frightened regime has to crush the media, and even has to arrest participants in a candlelit vigil, it tells you all you need to know but history teaches us that such regimes ultimately die from their own poison. Courageous people like Jimmy Lai, whom I have met, are the antidote to that poison. All over the world journalists and parliamentarians should be using their freedom to denounce this wrongful arrest and to tell the story of what Jimmy Lai's arrest symbolises."
UPDATE: Jimmy Lai has now been freed on bail ahead of a court hearing.
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