When asked to comment on his arrest on Monday morning, Jimmy Lai is reported to have said of the police, “What else could they do.” While the Hong Kong authorities arrested Lai, the publisher of Apple Daily, to enforce the new national security law that takes away the ‘one country two system’s concept that was supposed to apply to the former British territory for another 20 years, there has been an outpouring of support from residents. A total of ten people were arrested, including the pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow who was arrested on Monday night.
The editor and staff have said they will continue their editorial stand for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous territory in opposition to Beijing’s homogenization of its legal and political system into its own. Ryan Law, the chief editor of Apple Daily, said the paper would not be intimidated by the raid.
On the morning of 11 August, there were queues at downtown newsstands to buy copies of Apple Daily in an energetic show of support. Sales were brisk with the paper printing 500,000 copies instead of the usual 100,000. The front page had a photo of the police taking Lai away with the headline, ‘Apple will fight on.’
On Monday, the share price of Apple Daily’s parent company, Next Digital, rose more than 300%. On Tuesday afternoon, it has gone up another 500% from Monday’s closing stock price.
Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator, said the arrest “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. Jimmy Lai should be released at once and any charges dropped.”
While police have not released details of the cause of arrest, it is presumed that Lai will be accused of collusion with a foreign power, which the law criminalizes. Lai has been a visitor to Washington to solicit support for Hong Kong democracy and met up with US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.