Hong Kong police on Monday arrested pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai on charges of allegedly colluding with foreign forces under the controversial new national security law imposed on the territory by China.
Lai, 71, was arrested along with at least six other people connected with him including his two sons and four executives at his publishing group Next Digital, publisher of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which frequently criticizes Beijing.
“Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time,” read a Sunday evening tweet from Mark Simon, a senior executive at Lai’s media company.
More than a hundred police raided Next Digital’s offices on Monday morning. The newspaper livestreamed video of officers arresting Lai and his chief executive and warning reporters to stop filming the raid.
Lai’s arrest is the most high-profile so far under the new national security law passed by Beijing in June and aimed at tightening China’s control over Hong Kong, a measure pro-democracy critics say will erode the civil liberties of Hong Kong residents.
China claims that the national security law is necessary to crack down on separatism, subversion, terrorism, and foreign intervention in Hong Kong. The measure would also allow China’s state security agencies to operate in the territory.
Critics and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have warned that the law, which comes after months of pro-democracy demonstrations among residents of the territory, will erase the “one country, two systems” arrangement between Hong Kong and Beijing and will subvert the freedoms currently enjoyed by Hong Kong residents, including the right to assembly, a free press, and a judiciary system independent of mainland China.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress in May that the city of Hong Kong no longer “maintains a high degree of autonomy from China,” an appraisal that indicates the U.S. may end its special trading relationship with the financial hub.
Lai faces up to life in prison if convicted of colluding with foreign forces.