HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested on Monday under Beijing’s new national security law for the city, sending a chill across the global financial hub.
Lai’s arrest, for suspected collusion with foreign forces, is the most high-profile under the security legislation, which has been widely condemned by Western governments and international human rights groups who say it will crush freedoms in the former British colony.
Lai, 71, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, which imposed the sweeping new law on Hong Kong just before midnight on June 30.
Police also raided the headquarters of Lai’s media company, Next Digital, which publishes the Apple Daily tabloid.
Here is what people are saying about the day’s events:
Foreign Correspondents Club, Hong Kong:
“The arrests, and the raid on the newsroom, are a direct assault on Hong Kong’s press freedom and signal a dark new phase in the erosion of the city’s global reputation,” the FCC said in a statement.
“Just as troubling as the arrests was the subsequent police action at the Next Digital offices, where uniformed police entered and set up cordons with orange tape, questioned journalists and took down their identifying information, and were seen rifling through notes and papers on reporters’ desks.
“The Hong Kong Police Force blocked several local and international media outlets from a press briefing at the Apple Daily headquarters about the events.”
Jeremy Laurence, spokesman for the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet:
“We repeat our calls for the authorities to monitor and review the operation of the security law and to amend it if necessary to ensure there is no scope for its misuse to restrict human rights guaranteed by international law and the Basic Law of Hong Kong.”
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director, Nicholas Bequelin:
“The arrest of Jimmy Lai for allegedly ‘colluding with foreign powers’ is a disturbing demonstration of how the Hong Kong authorities intend to use the new national security law to threaten press freedom.”
Nathan Law, democracy activist who fled Hong Kong:
“Crazy arrests,” Law tweeted. “The end of freedom of press in Hong Kong. The national security law is quashing the freedom of our society, spreading politics of fear.”
Hong Kong Democratic Party:
“The public searches of the media offices have had a shocking effect on the industry ... freedom of the press and expression are at stake,” it said in a Facebook post.
Hong Kong Journalists Association chairman Chris Yeung:
“The search is horrible, I believe many journalists wouldn’t expect this,” Yeung told reporters.
“I think somewhere in third-world countries there has been such kind of press freedom suppression, just didn’t expect it to be in Hong Kong.”
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party:
“The arrest reflects that the (HK government) wasn’t intimidated by U.S. sanctions, which actually are pushing HK civil servants further to Beijing,” Hu said on Twitter.
“In the future, the sanctions will also push the hearts and minds of entire HK society to the Chinese mainland, promoting China’s unity.”
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang:
“China should not treat Hong Kong this way. Taiwan is paying very close attention to the situation in Hong Kong and cares about the people of Hong Kong,” Su told reporters in Taipei.
“We still urge the Chinese government to keep its promise and respect Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom.”
Steven Butler, Asia program co-ordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists:
“The arrest of media tycoon Jimmy Lai bears out the worst fears that Hong Kong’s national security law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom,” Butler said in a statement. “Jimmy Lai should be released at once and any charges dropped.”
Reporting by Jessie Pang,Yanni Chow and Carol Mang in Hong Kong, Yimou Lee in Taipei; Compiled by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan
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