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Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested on Monday by Hong Kong authorities at a time when enforcement of a new national security law is cracking down on the region's free press. This marks the first time that the new national security law was used against the press.
CTV reports that Hong Kong agents took in Lai, 71 and two of his sons after a raid on the "Next Digital" office where he operates Apple Daily, an anti-Chinese Communist Party publication that calls for democracy and freedom of the press. Next Digital executive and Lai's aide, Mark Simon, told reporters that Lai was charged with colluding with foreign powers, endangering national security and conspiring to defraud.
Police seized over 20 cases of what they said was evidence from the headquarters of Apple Daily. Next Digital, the parent company of Apple Daily told reporters "Hong Kong's press freedom is now hanging by a thread, but our staff will remain fully committed to our duty to defend the freedom of the press." The area surrounding the office was cordoned off by hundreds of police officers who said entry was only permitted to select media establishments, and who told foreign reporters they were not allowed entry on the grounds that they might be a threat to police.
On the cover of the July 1st edition of the publication, Apple Daily featured an anti-China Communist Party statement that ripped on the new national security law. It called the law a "final nail in the coffin" for the "one country, two systems" framework. The new law bans secessionist, subversive and terrorist acts. The maximum punishment if found guilty is life imprisonment.
"I have always thought I might one day be sent to jail for my publications or for my calls for democracy in Hong Kong," Lai wrote in a New York Times article from May, "But for a few tweets, and because they are said to threaten the national security of mighty China? That's a new one, even for me."