Jimmy Lai has said he was surprised he was arrested so quickly, and suggested there was a “major mess” between Chinese authorities and Hong Kong over how to handle the territory’s national security law.
The 71-year-old media mogul and prominent pro-democracy figure was arrested on Monday on suspicion of committing crimes of foreign co-operation in violation of Beijing national security law and conspiracy to defraud.
Nine others were also arrested, including his two sons and four senior executives at his company Next Digital Media, the publisher of Apple Daily, Hong Kong̵7;s largest daily tabloid. Separately, Agnes Chow, a young pro-democracy activist, was also arrested on foreign co-operation charges.
In his weekly live broadcast from Apple Daily, Lai said Thursday that he had expected to be arrested under the law, which went into effect on June 30, but was surprised it had happened so quickly while the world’s attention was still on. in Hong Kong.
“I thought China, with such a strong response from the international community … in enforcing national security law, I thought they would keep a low profile to make sure the international community was comfortable with it, investors, businessmen … that the national security law had calmed everything down and we had done nothing, “he said.
“But maybe the upper and lower ranks do not coordinate. It just tells me that maybe the regime is in a big mess because they do not coordinate.”
When the law was enforced, the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities were concerned that it would be used to target only a small minority, and would not affect people’s lives and freedoms. They have also been in pain to reassure the foreign business community, there was no need to leave the international finance center.
Since its implementation, about 30 people have been arrested for crimes including holding a pro-independence flag, and schools and libraries have been told to remove “subversive” textbooks from shelves. Pro-democracy politicians have been disqualified from elections and media organizations have removed interviews with dissidents.
The Hong Kong-language Chinese newspaper Ming Pao reported on Thursday to public broadcaster RTHK that it had dropped a recorded discussion involving Nathan Law, a former lawmaker and activist who has fled the UK, and who reportedly required by the police under national security law.
Lai also said he was less afraid of transferring to the mainland, which has jurisdiction over the most seriously listed offenses, because the entire arrest team were Hongkongers and did not speak a continental language, he said.
The new police force established under national security law has been secretly covered up, but Lai said he did not think he encountered anyone from mainland China.
“They were all Hong Kong police. Maybe the force takes orders from China, I do not know, but it seems the whole team is a Hong Kong team, so I do not think they intend to take me or anyone to China. continent, “he said.
“Maybe if they decided I did something really subversive … but from now on I’m sure I won’t take it to China.”
Recent comments in the Chinese state media however have left open the possibility of a transfer. Reports have said that while the matter is being investigated by the police department, the national security office set up by Beijing in Hong Kong could take over what was considered “complicated”.
“As the case may involve complex foreign-related factors, if further evidence is difficult to investigate, the possibility of participation or even receipt by the Central Government’s National Security Office in Hong Kong may not is excluded, “said Beijing academic and national security law advocate Tian Feilong.
Lai was held for more than 40 hours. He was often seen in public during that time, being handcuffed by police, including the Apple Daily editorial office.
Some reports described him as a walker, but Lai said his other moves “were not intentional performances”. He said they had to move police stations because the power went out in the area, and again when the fingerprint machine was not working.
Lai said international support for him and the movement “brings us confidence to know what we are doing is right”.
“What we are doing to protect our city is the right thing to do because so many people have their backs.”
Additional reporting by Pei Lin Wu.