Hong Kong tycoon and democracy activist Jimmy Lai (黎智英) yesterday said his arrest on Monday took him by surprise and that he has been overwhelmed by residents’ subsequent support despite the threat from China’s new National Security Law for Hong Kong.
“I didn’t expect an arrest as quick as this because I thought that China, with such a strong response from the international community, knew that the implementation of the national security law was a blunder,” he said in a live-streamed conversation hosted by his flagship Apple Daily in Hong Kong.
“I thought they would keep a low profile to make sure that the international community is comfortable with it, the investors, the businessmen — to tell the world that the national security law actually now has calmed everything down,” he said.
Lai said he was touched by Hong Kong residents who have supported freedom of the press by this week buying up both copies of the popular tabloid and shares of his media company, Next Digital Ltd (壹傳媒), which helped boost the stock price by as much as 1,100 percent.
“I was really overwhelmed by the emotion of the city — people were obviously very angry about my arrest and came out in different ways to support us,” he said. “The oxygen is getting thin and we are all choking.”
“But when we’re choking, we’re still taking care of each other, and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom,” he added.
Lai’s arrest is the highest profile in Hong Kong under the new security legislation imposed by Beijing on June 30. It so far has been used to arrest 21 people.
About 200 police officers on Monday raided the headquarters of the Apple Daily.
Lai, Next Digital and several of its executives, the Apple Daily and other related companies yesterday afternoon filed writs in the Hong Kong High Court demanding the police return journalists’ materials, information with legal professional privilege and all other material not covered by the search warrant, Radio Television Hong Kong and the HK01 Web site reported.
Lai said the police who arrested him all seemed to be local officers and that, for the moment, he was not afraid of being spirited away to the mainland for a trial in courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
He said that could change if Beijing was convinced he had seriously endangered national security. However, he also made conciliatory remarks, arguing that the world should be friendly toward China.
He said the West’s confrontation with Beijing was a result of Chinese leaders pursuing an agenda that was in conflict with global norms, and the world would not have peace until China realized that and changed its behavior.
“The world doesn’t want to confront China because they’re so big — confrontation every time with China will have such a negative impact on the world,” Lai said.
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