Chinese authorities in Hong Kong charged Jimmy Lai, owner of the news outlet Apple Daily and an outspoken proponent of democracy, after finding him in violation of Beijing's new security law. The allegations are that he "colluded with foreign forces."
The media mogul, now 72 years old, was one of eight pro-democracy activists arrested last week and has been in police custody since December 2. Lai will appear in court on December 12 and faces charges that could put him behind bars for life.
The Hong Kong security law, which went into effect on June 30 of this year, has been widely criticized for being broad and far-reaching. Its 66 articles specify that acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, or foreign collusion would all be punishable by life in prison.
What each of those looks like, however, is largely up to the definition laid out in the law, giving Chinese authorities the ability to crack down on behavior they find to be out of line.
Under the new law, which is open to broad interpretation, protesting could be an act of subversion. And Lai's efforts to advocate for democracy could mean collusion under the new law.
Where many critics of Communist China have fled Hong Kong, Lai refused to budge, staying put and loudly continuing to argue against a Chinese takeover of the once free city. His tenacity has been a thorn in the side of nationalists for months, leading to his arrest on two other separate occasions this past year. His most recent incarceration indicates a strong Chinese resolve to crack down on dissent as they further take control of Hong Kong.
Lai has repeatedly asked the international community to confront Chinese government behavior, going so far as to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year. To the Chinese communist party which has recurrently been frustrated by what they see as American interference in domestic matters, Lai has gone a step too far.
Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told The Washington Post that Lai’s an arrest that the citizens of Honk Kong—and the international community—won’t ignore.
"As a well-known public figure in Hong Kong, Lai's arrest sends a shock to many Hong Kongers. Under present tensions between the U.S. and China, Lai's arrest will also become an international case," Ngok said.