One of the top supporters of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong was arrested Monday under a new security law officials have feared was designed to stamp out widespread anti-China dissent.
“It just gives the lie to any assurances that the national security law would just target a few people involved in rioting,” Keith Richburg, director of the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school, said, according to The New York Times. “It’s put a chilling effect over everything here.”
“It’s hard to believe this is Hong Kong. It is incredible how quickly everything has changed,” he said, now that China has begun to ratchet up pressure on pro-democracy protests.
Publishing executive Jimmy Lai was led out of the offices of his Apple Daily in handcuffs. More than 200 police officers later returned to search the offices.
Hong Kong police escorted pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai through the newsroom of his Apple Daily newspaper, as around 200 officers searched the office of the tabloid publication and removed boxes of evidence https://t.co/SulI7RKV7w pic.twitter.com/T78iPoGiVG
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 10, 2020
Lai was accused of collusion with a foreign country or external elements, a crime that under the new security law lacks a precise definition.
Later Monday, Agnes Chow, an activist and politician, was also arrested on suspected national security law violations.
In May, when Lai was in hot water over tweets he posted about the new security law, he predicted his fate.
“I have always thought I might one day be sent to jail for my publications or for my calls for democracy in Hong Kong. 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,” he wrote in an Op-Ed in The Times.
Lai said at the time that Hong Kong is the battlefield where the war for global democracy will be won or lost.
“Fighting for Hong Kong isn’t just about saving Hong Kong or sending China a message. The longer the West supports Hong Kong while we, Hong Kongers, fight for the rule of law, for individual rights, for our freedoms — for freedom, period — the more the world will realize how distrust-worthy China is, how dangerous it is to peace in the world,” he wrote.
Recognizing that, the Trump administration — which last week sanctioned 11 Chinese officials over their efforts to smother democracy in Hong Kong — issued a statement Monday condemning the arrest.
“Jimmy and his colleagues are powerful voices for the fundamental rights and liberties that Beijing guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong, but that it now systematically attacks. As a newspaperman, entrepreneur, and citizen, Jimmy Lai has exercised, celebrated, and defended liberty by warning what Hong Kong would be like without it,” National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said in a statement.
“Beijing’s national security law denies the people of Hong Kong their fundamental rights and liberties and increases the Chinese Communist Party’s control over Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” he said. “These reported arrests, following the recent action by the Hong Kong government to unjustly disqualify candidates and postpone the Legislative Council elections, are the latest violations of Beijing’s commitments to the Hong Kong people and the world.
“These arrests are also a clear effort to intimidate pro-democracy and political opposition figures and suppress Hong Kong’s free and independent media, which have played key roles in the city’s character and success.”
“Jimmy Lai was nothing more than a patriot who wanted good things for the people of Hong Kong. He wanted basic freedoms,” Pompeo said.
“The Chinese Communist Party had promised them that they would have that when they entered into the agreement with Britain, and now the Chinese Communist Party has decided no, Hong Kong’s going to just simply be another communist city,” he said.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has criticized China’s actions in Hong Kong.
However, in May 2019, as storm clouds were gathering over Hong Kong, Biden told an Iowa audience that China’s leaders were “not bad folks, folks,” according to the South China Morning Post.
“For decades, Biden has embraced the ‘China engagement’ doctrine,” the report’s subheading read. “Now, though, he seems to have changed his tune.”
“In 2013, then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden flew aboard Air Force Two to China,” he wrote. “Less than two weeks later, Hunter Biden’s firm inked a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China. The deal was later expanded to $1.5 billion.
“In short, the Chinese government funded a business that it co-owned along with the son of a sitting vice president.”
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