Media mogul Jimmy Lai, owner of Apple Daily Hong Kong and pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, have been released on bail after being arrested as part of an attack under a new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Lai was released in the early hours of Wednesday, backed by his lawyers and greeted by supporters chanting “fight to the end” and “apple support, have an apple a day”, referring to the pro tabloid -demokracisë.
He made no comment after his release. Lai bail was set at HK 300,000 ($ 38,461), plus a guarantee of HK 200,000 ($ 25,805).
The fierce critic of the Communist Party rule in Beijing was arrested on Monday for allegedly collaborating with foreign forces, when about 200 officers attacked his newspaper offices and collected 25 boxes. Journalists at the newspaper had posted on Facebook dramatic footage of the raid.
A huge media crackdown outside the Mong Kok police station after @JimmyLaiApple was finally released on bail about 40 hours after his arrest under the NSL.
According to the Oriental Daily, Lai was required to pay $ 500 KK (US $ 64.5k) in cash, and HK 50 million of his assets were frozen. pic.twitter.com/VEVYf2Cy2o
̵1; Eric Cheung (@EricCheungwc) August 11, 2020
In all, 10 people were arrested on Monday, targeting pro-democracy opposition figures in the semi-autonomous territory, drawing international criticism and raising fears that Beijing is revoking the promised freedoms under the “one country, two systems” formula. been in place since the end of British colonial rule in 1997.
Comprehensive security legislation, imposed on June 30, punishes anything Beijing considers detachment, exhumation, “terrorism” or clash with foreign forces with life imprisonment.
The media mogul in Hong Kong is arrested under the new security law
The Beijing-backed government and Chinese authorities in Hong Kong say the law is needed to restore order after months of violent anti-government and pro-democracy protests last year.
Lai’s release comes after his two sons and activist Agnes Chow were released late Tuesday.
Following her release, Chow, who became a prominent figure in the so-called 2014 Umbrella Movement, called her arrest “political persecution and political repression,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“It is very clear that the regime is using national security law to suppress political dissidents,” she said.
Chow also told reporters she was “unprepared” when she was arrested Monday night.
“I was arrested four times before, but honestly this time, I was more scared. And it was harder.”
She added that authorities did not present any evidence of her violating national security law.
The latest clash came less than two weeks after police made their first arrests of four students under the new national security law.
‘Dancing with the enemy’
Apple Daily has responded with opposition to Lait’s arrest, with readers lined up from the early hours of Tuesday to receive copies of the newspaper.
“Apple Daily must fight,” reads its front page headline.
Critics accuse Hong Kong of stalling press freedom
“The prayers and encouragement of many readers and writers make us believe that as long as there are readers, there will be writers, and that Apple Daily will no doubt struggle.”
More than 500,000 copies were printed, compared to 100,000 ordinary, the paper said on its website.
Lai of continental descent, who was smuggled to Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a mindless 12-year-old, is one of the city’s most prominent democracy activists.
The Chinese government has labeled him a “traitor” in the past and issued a statement supporting his arrest, while the Beijing-backed China Daily reported that Lai’s arrest showed “the cost of dancing with the enemy.”
The newspaper added that “delayed justice does not mean lack of justice”.
Agnes Chow: Former Hong Kong teen activist China wants to keep quiet https://t.co/dd4Sxuptru @chowtingagnes #hongkong @jerometaylor pic.twitter.com/SVA5AO1Cf3
– Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) August 11, 2020
The recent arrests also sparked a new round of international sentencing
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a “patriot,” saying Beijing had “evaded” Hong Kong freedoms.
The UK, meanwhile, said Lai’s arrest was further evidence that the security law was a “pretext to silence dissent”, to which the Chinese embassy responded by urging London to ban “the use of press freedom as a justification for discrediting “the law.
Last week, the U.S. imposed sanctions on several senior officials over what it said was their role in curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong. China has responded with sanctions against top US and other lawmakers.