Intellasia East Asia News – National security law: Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai freed as activist Agnes Chow calls her arrest ‘political persecution and suppression’

Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was released on police bail shortly after midnight on Tuesday, more than 40 hours after he was arrested for foreign collusion under the new sweeping national security law and had spent part of the day taken in handcuffs to his moored yacht for a search.

He appeared outside Mong Kok Police Station to loud chants of “Support Apple! Support till the end!” from dozens of supporters who jostled with the hordes of waiting media.

He waved and got into his car, which had to move slowly as it was swiftly surrounded by journalists and well-wishers. Lai’s bail was set at HK$300,000 (US$38,461), plus a HK$200,000 surety.

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The other nine detained by police in a dramatic day of arrests on Monday for foreign collusion or alleged commercial crime were being released one by one throughout the evening, sources told the Post.

Former student activist Agnes Chow Ting walked out of Tai Po Police Station at around 11pm while Lai’s elder son, Timothy Lai Kin-yang, 42, was freed from Cheung Sha Wan Police Station at around 10pm. Activist Wilson Li Chung-chak, a freelance videographer, was released after midnight.

Calling her arrest sudden, Chow said outside the station: “It is political persecution and political suppression. I still don’t understand why I was arrested.”

The latest arrest was “the most scary” among the four she had faced, Chow said, adding that her passport was confiscated and bail set at HK$20,000. She also had to pay a surety of HK$180,000.

The first to be released at 7.30pm was Lai’s youngest son, Ian Lai Yiu-yan, 39, who emerged from Tseung Kwan O Police Station with his legal representative, nearly 30 hours after he was arrested at his home in Clear Water Bay for collusion with a foreign country or external element.

Late on Tuesday evening, media mogul Lai, the most high-profile arrest since the new law was enacted on June 30, was being questioned at Mong Kok Police Station. His lawyers were seen entering the station and then leaving a few hours later. Lai’s car and driver waited outside, as supporters stood around.

Earlier, just before noon, a handcuffed Lai, wearing the same suit he was arrested in, was escorted in an unmarked police car to Hong Kong Marina in Sai Kung. He was taken around the club by a team of officers with his lawyers present.

The search ended about 30 minutes later, and the police car ferrying Lai left the yacht club at 12.10pm.

Tuesday’s release of those arrested came after the publication’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law Wai-kwong revealed that Apple Daily, known for its anti-government and anti-Beijing stance, was going to file a court injunction to prevent police from accessing materials they had seized in relation to the arrests.

On Monday, 200 police officers raided Apple Daily’s Tseung Kwan O offices, including taking the controversial step of entering its newsroom and searching journalists’ desks, a move they later defended as necessary to determine where to look, insisting they did not pry into editorial work.

But questions were raised about the police’s search powers, as Law told the Post that some of the materials seized relating to the newspaper’s charity funds contained editorial information and the investigation warrant did not clearly spell out the action being taken.

At least 30 boxes of documents and three hard drives from various departments were seized in the nine-hour search, Apple Daily reported on Tuesday.

But a police spokesman defended their action late on Tuesday. “Police expressed regret that some media had deliberately discredited police’s search operation,” he said.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a top barrister and an adviser on the Hong Kong leader’s Executive Council, supported the arrests but said a journalist’s desk should be defined as a private area, and called for a clarification.

Late on Monday, with their key personnel being held by police, editors and reporters live-streamed their efforts to produce the newspaper and on Tuesday, supporters rallied in solidarity, buying up some 550,000 copies, five times its usual 80,000 print circulation outside horse racing season.

Shares of the paper’s parent company, Next Digital, also soared for the second day, quadrupling from Monday to close at HK$1.10.

The surge valued Lai’s firm at HK$2.9 billion, making it the biggest publicly traded media company in Hong Kong, ahead of TVB, as lines formed outside Cafe Seasons, a restaurant reportedly run by his younger son, Ian. The restaurant was also raided by police a day ago.

Monday’s frenzy of activity began early when police picked up Lai from his Ho Man Tin home at 7am. His two sons were arrested, together with the firm’s CEO Cheung Kim-hung, chief administrative officer Wong Wai-keung, its animation arm’s director Kith Ng Tat-kong, and Royston Chow Tat-kuen, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

In a second afternoon swoop, police detained Agnes Chow, along with Wilson Li, a freelance videographer with Britain’s ITV news and former member of the now-disbanded student activist group Scholarism, and Andy Li, a member of the Election Observation Mission – set up to monitor last November’s district council elections.

A police source told the Post on Tuesday that Chow and the two Lis were allegedly involved in an online group calling for sanctions in Hong Kong, while the media tycoon – together with son Ian and Royston Chow – allegedly offered financial support to the group via overseas bank accounts.

The source said the group received more than HK$1 million from overseas bank accounts after the new legislation took effect.

Another police source said Lai’s top aide, Mark Simon, Samuel Chu Muk-man, US-based son of 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests co-founder Reverend Chu Yiu-man, and one more activist were wanted in the case.

The six were arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces under the national security law, imposed by Beijing since June 30 to target acts the crime they were accused of together with secession, subversion and terrorism.

The remaining four of the 10 arrested, all of whom are senior staff of Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital, were arrested for conspiracy to defraud over an alleged plot to evade rent from the Lands Department following complaints launched by pro-Beijing groups.

Jimmy Lai and Royston Chow were also detained for the same alleged offence.

Three lawyers of those arrested who spoke to the Post said their clients had not been treated any differently from suspects facing probes not related to national security law.

Overnight, world leaders from the United States, Canada, Europe and Britain challenged the police’s move, adding it was further proof the national security law was put in place to silence dissent.

Japan joined in the chorus of condemnation on Tuesday, saying it was “deeply concerned”.

“It is important that Hong Kong develop democratically and in a stable manner” under the “one country, two systems” policy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

On Tuesday evening, dozens of protesters waving copies of the newspaper joined singalong protests at shopping malls in Mong Kok, Sha Tin and Causeway Bay. Police resorted to pepper spray to disperse the crowd outside the Langham Mall in Mong Kok.


Category: Hong Kong

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