FILE PHOTO: Media mogul Jimmy Lai Che-ying, founder of Apple Daily, spoke during an interview in Hong Kong, China on May 29, 2020 to answer the National Security Act. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
Lai is one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, who imposed sweeping legislation on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
The new security law punishes anything that China considers sabotage, isolation, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with life in prison.
Critics say it crushes independence in a semi-autonomous city, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.
“Jimmy Lai is currently under arrest for collusion with foreign powers,” Mark Simon, a senior executive at Lai’s media company Next Digital (0282.HK), Which publishes the local newspaper Apple Daily, said on Monday.
Police did not immediately comment.
Apple Daily reported that Lai was taken away from his home in Ho Man Tin in the early hours of Monday. The paper states that one of Lai’s sons, Ian, was also arrested at his home.
Local newspaper South China Morning Post on Monday feared the arrest of 10 others.
Lai was also arrested this year on illegal assembly charges along with other prominent activists related to the protests last year.
In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai promised to remain in Hong Kong and continue the fight for democracy, even though he hopes to be one of the targets of the new law.
Before Monday, 15 people were arrested under the law, including four people aged 16 at the end of last month on posts on social media.
The new law sent a chill through Hong Kong, affecting many aspects of life. Activists have dissolved their organizations, while some have fled the city altogether.
Slogans have been outlawed, some songs and activities such as human chains have been banned in schools, and books have been discontinued in public libraries.
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the region’s current and former police chiefs, and eight other top officials in what Washington says is their role in curtailing political independence in the region.
Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong described the sanctions as “controversial actions”.
The government of Beijing and Hong Kong have said that the law will not affect rights and freedoms, and it is necessary to remove security loopholes. He said it would only target a small minority of “Sankatmochan”.
Reporting by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Sri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle