The worst omens have started to materialize in Hong Kong. The National Security Law promulgated by Beijing at the end of June began to be used today against the press most critical of the Chinese regime.
Pro-democracy businessman Jimmy Lai has been arrested for “conspiring with foreign forces, making seditious speech, and conspiring to commit fraud,” while his newspaper, the Apple Daily, has been searched by some 200 police officers who have cordoned off the headquarters and prevented the access of foreign journalists.
At the moment, at least seven more people – including two of Lai’s children – have been arrested, and, according to the police, “the operation is ongoing and more arrests are not ruled out.”
The response from Democratic activists has not been long in coming. “This is the first step in the blackout that the Chinese government wants for the Hong Kong press,” said politician Chu Hoi-dick.
“It is the end of press freedom and the darkest day for journalists,” added activist Joshua Wong, whose candidacy for the now postponed regional elections was rejected. Can you imagine this happening in the newsrooms of the New York Times or the Guardian?
Hundreds of policemen have entered the Apple Daily without a warrant, “he added on Twitter. Some lawyers from the businessman’s legal team have also been unable to access the headquarters.
Lai, 72, is an especially controversial figure in the former British colony. It has supported without fissures the demonstrations against the proposed extradition law, which erupted during the summer of last year and led to the demand – often violent – for a full democracy for Hong Kong, and has even publicly asked for the intervention of States United and help from the CIA to counteract the increase in power exercised by the Chinese central government in the financial center.
“I am prepared to go to prison,” he said in June in an interview with the AFP agency. «If it happens, I will have the opportunity to read many books that I have pending. The only thing I can do is be positive, “he added ironically after acknowledging that he considers himself a” problematic “person.
Born in the southern province of Guangdong, Lai has reason to hate the Communist Party: His family lost the fortune they had amassed after Mao Zedong’s revolution, and he had to migrate illegally to Hong Kong when he was twelve years old. After doing all kinds of jobs, she founded the successful fashion company Giordano, and her first outlet came shortly after the Tiananmen massacre.
Since then, Lai has had the Chinese leadership in his sights, and that has earned him the official press to label him a traitor. Not surprisingly, he is also being investigated for his participation in the protests and is subject to other charges, such as illegal assembly, which carry penalties of up to five years in prison.
But, for all this, for the Hong Kong protesters he is a hero, and they have made it known today in a very peculiar way: buying shares of Next Media, his media company, whose price has multiplied. for three.
If Lai is finally prosecuted and his case is deemed especially severe, he could be tried on mainland China and face life in prison. “Regardless of what happens to him, this case sends a clear message to the press and can cause a wave of self-censorship.
The situation is deteriorating rapidly and the freedoms that Hong Kong still enjoys are in jeopardy, “an editor of the South China Morning Post, who asked to remain anonymous, told this newspaper.