Hong Kong Uses New National Security Law To Arrest Prominent Pro-Democracy Media Tycoon

from the exactly-the-reason-the-law-was-writtenq dept

Hong Kong’s new national security law — foisted upon it by the Chinese government — has nothing to do with securing the nation and everything to do with silencing pro-democracy voices. It criminalizes advocating for secession from China, as well as other forms of dissent, under the bogus theory that speaking out against the government makes Hong Kong — and China — less secure.

Basically, the new law equates dissent with terrorism and punishes accordingly. Life sentences possibly await arrested pro-democracy protesters and advocates. The government has put its words into action, using the new law to effect dozens of arrests. But one recent arrest shows the Chinese government doesn’t care what the rest of the world thinks about its anti-democracy tactics.

In the highest-profile attack yet on free speech and press freedom in Hong Kong, police on Monday arrested Jimmy Lai, a prominent pro-democracy media tycoon, and raided the offices of his newspaper, demonstrating China’s resolve to silence dissent and bring the city to heel.

The government claims it wants to ensure the safety of residents and shut down riots. But the law, in practice, means arresting one of the most recognizable pro-democracy advocates — one who’s run a successful business for years and has met with prominent politicians around the world. This arrest is China racking the slide of its anti-freedom shotgun, letting the rest of its citizens know that no one is untouchable.

The entire arrest was recorded by employees of Lai’s newspaper, the Apple Daily. As officers carted away “evidence,” they took time to threaten those witnessing the raid.

The live footage showed a tense scene in the newsroom. When an editor demanded to know the exact boundaries of the area being searched, he was shoved by shouting officers. “Remember his face,” an inspector said, raising his index finger. “If he still behaves like this, give him a warning. And if he doesn’t listen to the warning, arrest him.”

Livestream footage also showed plainclothes officers at a restaurant owned by one of Mr. Lai’s sons in Hong Kong’s Central district. The officers loaded a crate filled with electronic devices they had seized into a private vehicle and did not respond when reporters asked if they were national security officers and whether they had search warrants.

While Lai faced charges earlier this year for participating in “unauthorized” protests, this arrest has everything to do with the new law. Lai is accused of “colluding with a foreign country or external elements” — something that’s vague enough to cover the everyday elements of his international business dealings. The New York Times notes Lai visited Washington, DC last year to meet with the Vice President and the Secretary of State, but the new law supposedly only applies to activities occurring after its implementation this June.

Hong Kong will not remain democratic or independent. The Chinese government will run it the way it runs China. The Chinese government agreed to limit its interference into Hong Kong’s governance for fifty years when it acquired it from Great Britain. It may not have to replace the Hong Kong government with its own to achieve its goals. With laws like this — and the acquiescence of Hong Kong political leaders — the Chinese government can violate the spirit of the agreement for next 27 years without violating the letter of its “hands-off” assurances to the British government and the residents of Hong Kong.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

If I were a foreign national in HK, or even a resident with dual citizenship, I’d take this as a sign that it’s time to get out with whatever I can. This isn’t going to improve for HK in the next 27 years.

For the next generation, it’ll be China as usual, as intended.

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seedeevee (profile) says:

Re: Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

No, he’s a moron for saying that China acquried a Chinese city from Great Britain.

That’s like saying you acquired your own house – one you owned for over a thousand years – from the bandits that moved into your house at gunpoint and then the bandits decided to move out of your house after they realized that some bad men were coming to force them out.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 China Acquiring Chinese Cities

Ah, got you mixed up with John85881 and Restless94110, my mistake. At some point you Republicans tend to blur into each other, what with the COVID-19 parties you like to have.

I did take a refresher course through your post history though, still haven’t found the more flattering bit, but I’m sure hopes and prayers will help out.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: Re:3 China Acquiring Chinese Cities

No, I couldn’t. Why should I take the easy way? It would make me look like some ass-kissing fool with arguments like yours.

Translation: I’m so insecure that I behave like an asshole to appear strong.

Result: It makes you look like a weak-minded asshole, nothing else.

Tip: A reasonable argument is always better than the unhinged ravings of an asshole.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

China agreed to it as a condition for getting HK proper (the CBD, the old airport, etc.) and not just the New Territories when the lease on the New Territories expired. The UK could have made HK independent and let it decide whether to join the PRC, the RoC, or remain independent, or just let it continue as a rump colony (and arguably handing it over to the PRC without the residents’ permission was a violation of a UN GA resolution which, though non-binding, has generally been followed). Really the UK blundered by not demanding the New Territories in perpetuity when they had the opportunity to dictate terms.

Also, remember that the residents of HK didn’t want to become part of the PRC, and the promise of self government and less interference from Beijing than there had been from London was part of what convinced them to accept the deal.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

"It’s a little weird that he thinks Great Britain has a say anymore in what happens inChina."

There’s a treaty named the Sino-British Joint Declaration which stipulates what both China and the UK are obligated to do. UK simply agrees to divest all claims on Hong Kong.
China agrees to not meddle in Hong Kong politics except to very limited extent, for fifty years.

It’s about as "weird" as ANY international treaty which places two countries under specific obligations.

Perhaps you are unaware of the concept called a "contract" or its international version, the "treaty"?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

"It’s a little weird that he thinks Great Britain has a say anymore in what happens inChina."

Only if you take the Chinese claim that the treaty that was meant to protect the rights of HK citizens after land was retuned is meaningless. If you take the actual historical events and treaty negotiations that led to the peaceful return of power in 1997, Britain should still have a say for another 27 years.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: China Acquiring Chinese Cities

"ou are a fucking moron, Tim Cushing. I am surprised you couldn’t fit Russia into this article somehow."

Based on Tim being historically accurate? It’s not his fault you are illiterate and have to get all your news from what some alt-right spiritual peer told you.

The sino-british treaty is on record and was debated quite a lot when the UK handed Hong Kong back to China. And yes, according to that treaty China does indeed agree to limit its interference in Hong Kong politics for fifty years.

That no one with any political acument – least of all the UK – actually credited China to stick to that treaty, even back when it was written, is another debate.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"It’s like The Patriot Act was some Chinese/Russian fake news to you dumbasses."

Even the patriot act doesn’t let a police officer bury a citizen in a jail for saying unflattering things about the president or the government in general.

It’s as if you can’t tell the difference between a bad law (the patriot act) and truly horrific outright political censorship.

Oh, wait, given that you’re right now 3 for 3 on not knowing what you’re talking about maybe we should just cut you some slack for getting your "news" from the village idiot echo chamber.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Can you name a country that doesn’t have a national security law?"

One which has "public dissidence with the government" as a term which mandates a prison sentence?

Not many.

Honestly, seedeevee, did you show up here only to demonstrate the exact depth of your ignorance? Because if that’s the case I’m pretty sure we’re already well aware of it by now.

seedeevee (profile) says:

Re: Re:

also, part of that "agreement" that the HK Gov’t did not complete and that bullshitter Cushing blows right by is that the Hong Kong legislature was supposed to make a Security Law for HK and they never did it. The Chicoms waited 23 years – but Cushing knows that, but thinks you all are too ignorant to know better.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"…the Hong Kong legislature was supposed to make a Security Law for HK and they never did it."

Actually they did. Just that no suggestion of "security law" was approved by China because none of the suggestions used Chinese security law, including anti-dissident stipulations** as a basis. Funny how that goes.

The only surprising thing about it is how naíve Hong Kong residents were that they believed the bullshit in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. And possibly that you’re around here trying to rewrite history in your usual twisted way to make it fit your narrative.

Anonymous Coward says:

Arresting people because they supposedly collude with the enemy is what states do, there is nothing unusual about it. Nor the charges have to be particularly "substantiated" to press criminal charges, like what happened with Flynn. US is trying to ban RT and tag it everywhere as "propaganda network", while Russia is trying to do the same with Voice of America and so on…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

this was not an attempt at whataboutism, rather noting that in many things china is reacting at the attempts to interfere with its internal process, like any other sovereign state does. China is nor liberal, nor democratic, and that is just the way it is. The idea of shifting there all the low added value chain parts, like Apple did with Foxconn, empowering them with control on what hardware we use in the West, and then after we gave them hundreds of billions, trying to say "hey, but we expected you to follow our rules" is preposterous at best. The same preposterous thing as the China Daily printing in their op-eds every day that our democracies are doomed because of liberalism, individual freedoms etc. Every system defends itself from external interference, or what it perceives as such, thats all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

in other words, if you really dont like them, dont have business with them. If you do have business with China, well, you do accept China as your counterpart. You cannot sell China technology and weapons, then complain because they are using them against you (or your vision of how the world should be). You knew it was China all along, you decided to make money with them, of course you have unintended consequences. Pretending you did not know its not naiveness, it is just bad faith.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

look, all that I am saying, it is that these are PR stunts, arresting people on bogus charges, to send loud and clear the message that the state is protecting its own understanding of what is "right". Someone sees the "right" system as democratic and free, some other see the "right" thing as oppressing people. where is the lie? all governments make this sort of PR, and the arrested people are brought as cannon fodder for the propaganda machine. If you think that it is a false equivalence because Flynn was a govt official and Lai is a "private entrepreneur", whatever that means in China given the context, I do not agree. Everyone who manages large sums of money, power, or people in China is the equivalent of a government official in the US, that just how the things work over there. If you do not agree with the PRC, then you do not do business in China. And btw, this is clearly stated in Chinese law, as every foreign company going there has to be in JV 50-50 with a local partner.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

brought as cannon fodder for the propaganda machine. If you think that it is a false equivalence because Flynn was a govt official and Lai is a "private entrepreneur",

More strawmen. You’re really not good at this.

Why do you lie that

like what happened with Flynn. US is trying to ban RT and tag it everywhere as "propaganda network"

is "PR stunts, arresting people on bogus charges," like China is doing?

That’s your false equivalence, troll – The part where you’re trying to downplay the wrongness China’s actions by saying they’re no worse than the false narrative about another country that you made up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

look, i am not downplaying. what China does with western money is way way worse that what western world does with China money. my point is, we financed the monster apparatus they put up, and we gave them the technology. and instead of stopping, we cry that they should behave differently. they breached a contract, sure. why? because they are strong enough to do so. and who made them that strong? companies that destroyed the industry in US and Europe. where is the surprise?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

and regarding the false equivalence – every actor breaches a contract if he stands to gain more from breaching than by abiding to it. call it human nature, perhaps – but no contract ever forced someone to work against what it perceives as its legitimate interests except maybe in the very short term.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

"…call it human nature, perhaps – but no contract ever forced someone to work against what it perceives as its legitimate interests except maybe in the very short term."

Well, I see where you’re coming from, but PaulIT and Toom1275 are correct, because your conclusion is wrong and based on flawed assumption.

There are – today – billions of contracts adhered to which restrains actors from pursuing their legitimate interests. Starting with, individually, the social contract.
We have had numerous extremely successful military and trade treaties which have largely been adhered by, despite obviously restraining BOTH factions from what they consider legitimate interests.

I don’t think anyone is surprised by China dropping their part of the sino-british Joint Declaration in the crapper because from the start that piece of paper was meaningless and known to be such by anyone with political acument. It was, at best, China telling the UK "We’re taking Hong Kong back and right here and now is where we’ll let you save some face while returning it".

That doesn’t mean the Chinese aren’t acting like right shits in Hong Kong. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t condemn them for their actions.

It also means we should ask the UK why the hell they weren’t more up front with the HK citizenry what was going to happen and HK’s leadership why they didn’t tell their citizens flat out; "Anyone not wanting to march to chairman Mao’s tune, THIS is the time to leave".

As to how US affairs play out in comparison…that’s actually completely irrelevant, because one party being bad does not exculpate any other party from similarly being bad.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

"It also means we should ask the UK why the hell they weren’t more up front with the HK citizenry"

Well, quite frankly most of them knew this stuff would happen, which is why despite being a major financial and commercial centre under British rule that had been assured nothing would change until 2047 at lot of people reconsidered their options living, working and operating from there. But, like anywhere else in the world, a lot of people either don’t have the means to just up and leave, or care enough about their home to try and defend it.

As to why there was no official announcement, quite frankly British politics is a hot mess right now and has been for a decade. Between Brexit, Tory infighting, a rapidly changing and unpopular set of leaders and a dropping level of international negotiation power, I’m not entirely sure there was the will to stand up to China. If there was, it was hardly the most pressing priority in the minds of many.

This would have been exacerbated by the situation in the US, where Trump was doing his best to antagonise the Chinese into action, and anyone else trying to stand up to them would unfortunately need full US military support. I don’t think it’s hard to imagine the people within the UK government who could actually do something about Hong Kong going "yeah, we don’t really want to trigger WWIII over this".

More should have, and possibly can be, done. But, it’s not hard to see how we got to this position. Which is sad because we did essentially manage to bully China into accepting the Sino-British Joint Declaration back in the days before the US decided to hand them their entire manufacturing sector.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

I was probably misunderstood on the US comparison, but thanks – my point was to explain the logic behind it, not to justify or to compare the behavior. It was to say that every actor will bend the rules when it decides that it is worth doing it. You say that "There are – today – billions of contracts adhered to which restrains actors from pursuing their legitimate interests. Starting with, individually, the social contract." And this is absolutely true. However, it works only to the extent where both parties achieve, by refraining on some of their interests, a result which is globally better for both in the medium term. Otherwise, if only one party stands to gain, it is coercion and it is not meant to last. We agree that this logic, applied to China in HK, as you say, means that the construct was doomed from the first day. Historically, the US aligned their and their allies interests around the idea of enriching through cooperation, and this worked particularly well with what we call the western world. The idea of China, on the contrary, is to consolidate its hold on the supply chain by dumping prices through an oppression slavery state. In other words, while US exports mostly wealth, China exports mostly poverty. I believe that in the very long run, this means that the current Chinese model is doomed, as it does not offer a win-win solution. But history shows it can take a long, long time before we get there.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: cheap labor though

"that’s all that matters to the greedy"

Chinese labor is far from "cheap" today. It was, when the US began outsourcing all their engineering jobs to chinese factories. Today the US is literally held hostage because chinese engineers are vital to the US economy.

The US no longer has enough skilled engineers to compete with the chinese nor the knowledge base to adequately produce and train new ones. Fixing that will mean a LOT of money invested by the US, which they are, needless to say, loath to do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: cheap labor though

fully agree. I think we should start questioning investing in China first, and human rights second. you cant have the cake (make tons of money first by outsourcing, now by feeding the status quo) and eat it (challenging the terrible situation of human rights in their factories and society). Same things for textiles, I find all these campaigns about exploiting child labor in the fashion industry so hypocrite. Lets discuss about how these companies ended up there in the first place, with complacency from the regulators – so that we can avoid it happening in the future. But "discovering" that children make t-shirts after millions and millions have been produced at a hefty profit, well, that’s just hypocrisy and conscience washing, or said otherwise, its about exploiting a part of their horrible human and civil rights when we make profits, and criticizing some other parts when we dont make a gain out of it like with Lei.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: cheap labor though

"I think we should start questioning investing in China first, and human rights second."

I’d argue that truly questioning human rights in China would curtail investment into China. If western corporations were held to a standard of regulations which shreds their bottom line if they have investments or supply chains passing through parts of the globe noncompliant with a set standard of human rights then the problem will solve itself.

Naturally this first has to go through a body politic whose campaign funds are inextricably linked to their ability to support the bottom line of western corporations.

I won’t hold my breath.

I believe the negatives of outsourcing were extensively discussed by US politicians in the 80’s but the end result? It doesn’t matter how harmed the nation as a whole is, long-term as long as the quarterly profits keep being met. Instead the whole focus on retrieving and retaining the US industrial capacity was completely abandoned after Pfizer did their infamous "Let’s focus on IP as the sole american product" spiel which made for the current situation where China holds all the manufacturing cards AND is now outpacing the US in IP.

This…is how you turn the massive advantage of being the sole nation with a working industrial capacity after a world war, into a steaming pile of shit. The US body politic signed the whole country onto the lowest rung of a ponzi scheme concocted by IP grifters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 cheap labor though

unfortunately true. And in my opinion, it is also moving to a next, much worse phase. The main tool of pressure of the US to force companies (and states) to comply is based on two things – access to US market and ability to clear payments in US dollars. The US market is no longer that attractive vs, say, the Chinese market, in a strange world where spying on a billion "free" users is more valuable than having a million customers that pay for quality, western-made products. And alternative payment systems are being sponsored aggressively by China government (it is not a case that Tencent offers payment services, like Alibaba, and this is a much bigger strategic problem than privacy issues, although rarely mentioned: Chinese social networks also intermediate payments, competing very effectively with google and apple pay solutions), then you see why the internet as we know it is probably going to disintegrate in the not too far future. Very sad, and I dont know what we can do to reverse this trend.

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