World

Hong Kong's Apple Daily vows to 'fight on' after owner's arrest

HONG KONG: Hong Kong's Apple Daily tabloid responded with defiance yesterday to the arrest of owner Jimmy Lai under a new national security law imposed by Beijing, promising to fight on in a front page headline over an image of Mr Lai in handcuffs.

Readers queued from the early hours to get copies of the pro-democracy tabloid a day after police raided its offices and took Mr Lai into detention, the highest-profile arrest under the national security law.

"Apple Daily must fight on", the headline read, amid fears that the new law erodes media freedoms in the semi- autonomous territory.

"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 shall certainly fight on."

More than 500,000 copies were printed, compared with the usual 100,000, the paper said on its website.

China-born Lai, who was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a penniless 12-year-old, is one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of the Communist Party rule in Beijing.

His arrest comes amid a crackdown on the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong that has drawn international criticism.

The sweeping security law imposed on June 30 punishes anything China considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

The city's Beijing-backed government and Chinese authorities say the law is needed to restore order after months of at times violent anti-government protests last year, sparked by fears that China was slowly curtailing Hong Kong's freedoms.

Police detained Mr Lai for suspected collusion with foreign forces after 200 officers searched the newspaper's offices, collecting 25 boxes of evidence.

In a separate development, China's top lawmakers yesterday agreed to extend the term of Hong Kong's current Legislative Council (LegCo) by at least a year, putting an end to a legislative vacuum in the territory, state media reported.

LegCo elections were initially scheduled for Sept 6 but were postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. - Reuters, The Straits Times

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