China crackdown: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested amid new security law

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Mr Lai’s aide said he was held under China’s new security law on Monday. The entrepreneur has been a key supporter of the pro-democracy protest which sparked in Hong Kong last year.

Mark Simon, an executive at Mr Lai’s media firm Next Digital, said: “Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time.”

Hong Kong police have also reportedly entered Mr Lai’s media company building, searching the offices.

Earlier this year, Mr Lai was charged with illegal assembly and intimidation.

Hong Kong police confirmed seven people were arrested on Monday under suspicion of breaching the national security law.

All seven people were identified as men aged 39-72.

The police have not yet named Mr Lai as one of the arrested people.

The arrests on Monday are the third surge of detentions under the new law.

But Mr Lai’s would be the highest profile arrest under the security law.

It would also be the first case involving someone who holds foreign citizenship as Mr Lai has UK citizenship.

The arrest marks one of the biggest moves in Beijing’s crackdown against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Steven Butler, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia programme coordinator, said it “bears out the worst fears that Hong Kong’s National Security Law would be used to suppress critical pro-democracy opinion and restrict press freedom.

“Jimmy Lai should be released at once and any charges dropped.”

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Hong Kong police have said the operation is ongoing with further arrests possible.

Before Monday, 15 other people had been arrested under the security law.

The arrests included four people aged 16-21 late last month over social media posts.

Mr Lai founded the newspaper Apple Daily which is frequently critical of mainland Chinese leadership in Hong Kong.

In June, when the security law was passed, Mr Lai said that this “spells the death knell for Hong Kong”.

The entrepreneur said Hong Kong would become as corrupt as mainland China as “without the rule of law, people who do business here will have no protection”.

Mr Lai has also previously said: “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.”

The new security law reduces Hong Kong’s autonomy and makes it easier to punish pro-democracy protesters.

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