Hong Kong: China Bares Its Fangs Again, Pro-Democracy Media Tycoon Jimmy Lai Arrested Under Draconian National Security Law
Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, the publisher of Hong Kong’s popular newspaper Apple Daily and a vocal critic of Chinese communist party, was arrested today (Aug 10) under he provisions of city’s new national security law that was imposed by Chinese government in June this year, South China Morning Post reported.
Lai is a hugely influential figure in Hong Kong. He owns the Apple Daily newspaper and Next Magazine, both of which took an unapologetically pro-democracy position and critical of Beijing. Lai’s newspaper earned the ire of city’s pro-Beijing leadership during the months of massive peaceful protests and violent clashes with police that rocked Hong Kong last year.
Lai had described the city’s new national security law as a death knell for freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kongers since the city was returned to China in 1997.
In June this year, China passed a draconian national security law aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong. Beijing claimed that the newl security law is necessary to crack down on separatism, subversion, terrorism, and foreign intervention in Hong Kong.
Lai was arrested under the draconian new law for alleged collusion with a foreign country to endanger national security. He also faces charges of uttering seditious words and conspiring to defraud.
At least seven people including two of Lai’s sons and other executives of his media group Next Digital, were arrested in a sweeping police operation that saw over 200 cops raiding the paper’s headquarters in Tseung Kwan O.
Last year, Lai had met US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington DC to discuss the controversial extradition bill and the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.
Lai along with other prominent pro-democracy activists have frequently urged U.S. lawmakers to pass pro-Hong Kong legislation such as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The U.S. has responded to China’s draconian new law with multiple actions.
On Friday (Aug 8),the U.S announced that it has imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam and leading officials of Chinese Communist Party for their involvement in stifling political freedoms in Hong Kong.
The move is likely to deliver a serious blow to Hong Kong’s pre-eminent position as a global financial hub.
The U.S Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals including Lam for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong.
Under the sanctions imposed by the U.S, the assets that individuals hold within U.S. jurisdiction will be frozen and their travel to the U.S will also be prevented.
According to the Trump Administration, Lam was directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes including pushing for an update to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong.
“The recent imposition of draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong has not only undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, it has also infringed on the rights of people in Hong Kong, allowing mainland China’s security services to operate with impunity in the region, mandating “national security education” in Hong Kong schools, undermining the rule of law, and setting the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China.” the Treasury department said in a statement.
“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.
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