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.