KEY POINTS

  • Jimmy Lai was arrested over suspected collusion with a foreign nation
  • Police also conducted raids in the offices of the pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily
  • Police said seven men, aged 39-72, were arrested on suspicion of breaching the new security law

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested Monday, Aug. 10, under China's national security law over suspected collusion with a foreign nation.  Hong Kong police also conducted raids in the offices of the pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, which was founded by Lai.

Lai is the most high-profile figure to be arrested after China imposed the controversial law on the city in June.

Police said they arrested seven men, aged 39-72, on suspicion of breaching the new security law but did not provide any names. 

A source told Reuters that police also arrested one of Lai’s sons, Ian, and some senior executives of Next Digital, the media company that published the tabloid. The source added that Lai was arrested for suspected collusion with a foreign country, sedition and criminal fraud.

Lai, who also holds U.K. citizenship, first made his fortune in the clothing industry. He later moved into media and founded his tabloid, the Apple Daily, in 1995. His current worth is estimated at $ 1 billion. He has drawn the attention of Beijing through the paper that is frequently critical of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese leadership.

In 2019, he participated in the pro-democracy protests against Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s government that led to him being called a "riot's mastermind" who "has spread waves of hatred and negative information about the Chinese mainland day and night" by the Chinese state-run media.

On June 30, Lai told the BBC that the new security law “spells the death knell for Hong Kong" and warned of growing corruption because "without the rule of law, people who do business here will have no protection".

The new security law, which came into effect in June, and China claims it will restore stability in the city after a year of unrest.

Opponents of the law fear it will allow Beijing to gnaw away at a higher level of autonomy that Hong Kong citizens enjoy compared to people living in the mainland. They fear a loss of freedom of speech and that the right to hold peaceful protests will be stifled.

Key provisions of the law make those accused of crimes like secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces subject to a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Prior arrests under the law include at least 10 people from a July 1 flagship march in defiance of a police ban and four student members of the now-defunct pro-democracy group, Studentlocalism, who were taken into custody on suspicion of secession.

The Chinese born Jimmy Lai is the most high-profile arrestee under the new law. He told the AFP News Agency in June, "I'm prepared for prison. If it comes, I will have the opportunity to read books I haven't read. The only thing I can do is to be positive."

Few Hong Kongers generate the level of vitriol from Beijing that Lai does Few Hong Kongers generate the level of vitriol from Beijing that Lai does Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE