Media mogul Jimmy Lai, owner of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily and pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, have been released on bail after being arrested as part of a crackdown under a new security law imposed by Beijing.
Lai was released in the early hours of Wednesday, flanked by his lawyers, and greeted by supporters chanting “fight to the end” and “support apple, have an apple a day,” referring to the pro-democracy tabloid.
He made no comment after its release. Lai’s bail was set at HK $ 300,000 ($ 38,461), plus a $ 200,000 guarantee ($ 25,805).
The ardent critic of the Communist Party government in Beijing was arrested on Monday for alleged collusion with foreign forces when some 200 officers attacked his newspaper̵7;s offices and collected 25 boxes. Journalists of the newspaper had posted on Facebook dramatic images of the raid.
A huge media scene outside the Mong Kok police station, as @JimmyLaiApple is finally released on bail about 40 hours after his arrest under the NSL.
According to Oriental Daily, Lai had to pay 500 million free francs (64.5 million US dollars) in bail money and HK $ 50 million of his assets were frozen. pic.twitter.com/VEVYf2Cy2o
– Eric Cheung (@EricCheungwc) August 11, 2020
A total of 10 people were arrested on Monday, with the orientation of pro-democracy opposition figures in the semi-autonomous territory attracting international criticism and raising fears that Beijing will revoke the promised freedoms under the formula “one country, two systems” that it has been in existence since the end of British colonial rule in 1997.
The vast security legislation, imposed on June 30, punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, “terrorism,” or collusion with foreign forces to prison.
Detained a Hong Kong media mogul arrested by the new security law
The Hong Kong government and Chinese authorities backed in Hong Kong say the law is needed to restore order after months of anti-government and sometimes violent anti-democracy protests last year.
Lai’s release comes after her two children and activist Agnes Chow were also released late Tuesday.
Following his release, Chow, who became a prominent figure in the so-called Umbrella Movement of 2014, called his arrest “political persecution and political suppression,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“It is very clear that the regime is using national security law to suppress political dissidents,” he said.
Chow also told reporters she was not “ready” when she was arrested Monday night.
“I’ve been arrested four times before, but honestly this time, I was more scared. And it was the hardest.”
He added that the authorities did not present evidence that violated the national security law.
The most recent crackdown came less than two weeks after police made the first arrest of four students under the new national security law.
“Dancing with the enemy”
The Apple Daily has responded with suspicion about Lai’s arrest, with readers in line since Tuesday morning for copies of the newspaper.
“Apple Daily has to fight,” the front page headline read.
Critics accuse Hong Kong of repressing press freedom
“The prayers and encouragement of many readers and writers make us believe that as long as there are readers, there will be writers, and that Apple Daily will surely fight.”
More than 500,000 copies were printed, compared to the usual 100,000, the document said on its website.
A Lai, born on the mainland, who was smuggled to Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was 12 years old without a peninsula, is one of the city’s most prominent democracy activists.
The Chinese government has called him a “traitor” in the past and issued a statement supporting his arrest, while the Beijing-backed China Daily said Lai’s arrest showed “the cost of dancing. with the enemy “.
The document added that “delayed justice did not mean the absence of justice.”
Agnes Chow: Former Hong Kong teen activist in China wants to silence https://t.co/dd4Sxuptru @chowtingagnes #hongkong @jerometaylor pic.twitter.com/SVA5AO1Cf3
– Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@HongKongFP) August 11, 2020
More recent arrests also sparked a new round of international convictions
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a “patriot,” saying Beijing had “gutted” Hong Kong’s liberties.
Meanwhile, the UK said Lai’s arrest was further evidence that the security law was a “pretext to silence the opposition”, to which the Chinese embassy responded by asking London to stop “using press freedom as an excuse to discredit” the law.
Last week the United States imposed sanctions on several senior officials for what it said was its role in curbing political freedoms in Hong Kong. China responded with sanctions on top U.S. and other lawmakers.