In what was a not so surprising turn of events, Jimmy Lai, a Hong Kong media magnate was arrested thanks to the brand-new national security law. He is the founder of the Apple Daily, a pro-democracy newspaper based in Hongkong.
He was arrested for alleged collaboration with foreigners. Lai has been a significant voice in the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests agitating for more press freedom and an end to Chinese meddling in Hongkong affairs.
The police also raided Next Digital offices in Hongkong and carted away tones of evidence. This was a complete U-turn from when the police had promised not to interfere with news materials.
For a long time, Hong Kong has had a satisfactory amount of press freedom. However, there are now fears the brand-new national security law might threaten this freedom.
Of late, many foreign media outlets’ efforts to get visa renewals have hit a snag. The New York Times has even moved a part of its bureau in Hong Kong to South Korea.
Under the new law, anyone the Chinese government considers to have engaged in acts of secession, terrorism, collaboration with foreign powers, subversion and dissent is liable to a life sentence.
The police arrested the vocal 71-year old Lai alongside his son. They also raided both their homes. If convicted, they face a life imprisonment sentence.
Nevertheless, Next Digital shares increased by over 300 percent as investors moved to stand with the publisher after an online rallying call to support the publisher.
The arrest has sparked fears of a muzzling of the press by Beijing, just like they have done in Mainland China.
Beijing has long suspected that Hong Kong journalists are the primary way by which information leaves mainland China. That could be the reason why the Chinese government has moved to crack down on media freedom.