Hong Kong’s Apple Daily defiantly responded to its owner’s arrest under a new Beijing-imposed national security law, promising to “fight” in a headline over an image of handcuffed Jimmy Lai .
Readers lined up in the early hours of Tuesday for copies of the pro-democracy newspaper, a day after police raided his offices and detained Lai, the most high-profile arrest to date under the new National Security Law.
More than 500,000 copies have been printed, compared to the usual 100,000, the newspaper said on its website.
“Yesterday will not be the darkest day for Apple Daily, as the resulting nuisance, repression and arrests will continue to instill fear in us,” he wrote in an editorial.
“Nonetheless, the prayers and encouragement of many readers and writers make us believe that as long as there are readers, there will be writers, and Apple Daily will certainly continue to fight. “
#Editorial ｜ As long as there are readers, there will be writers. #AppleDaily will continue to fight. (Apple Daily HK)
Read: https://t.co/00KrI6tGsw#AppleDailyENG #HongKong pic.twitter.com/HvDN409iTW
– Apple Daily HK Apple Daily (@appledaily_hk) 11 August 2020
Dozens of people lined up for the newspaper in the working-class district of Mong Kok as early as 2 a.m. Some sellers reported selling during the morning rush hour.
“What the police did yesterday brutally violated press freedom,” Kim Yau told Reuters news agency while purchasing a copy.
“All Hong Kong people with a conscience should support Hong Kong today,” Apple Daily argues. ”
A restaurateur bought 50 copies from a newsstand in Mong Kok, claiming he planned to give them away for free.
“Since the government is not allowing Apple Daily to survive, we Hong Kong people have to save it ourselves,” the man, who gave his last name as Ng, told AFP.
Shares of Lai’s media company Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, jumped about 400% on Tuesday.
Its shares gained over 1,200% after a low blow right after Lai’s arrest, bringing the market value of the company to HK $ 2.74 billion ($ 353.5 million) from HK $ 197 million . The surge came after pro-democracy online forums called on investors to show their support.
Lai, a staunch critic of the Communist Party regime in Beijing, was arrested for alleged collusion with foreign forces after about 200 officers raided his newspaper’s offices, collecting 25 boxes of evidence.
Radical security legislation, imposed on June 30, punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces up to life in prison.
Lai’s arrest comes amid a crackdown on pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong, which has drawn international condemnation and raised fears of the freedoms Beijing promised when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
A total of 10 people were arrested on Monday, including other Apple Daily executives and Agnes Chow, 23, one of the former leaders of Demosisto, a group founded by activist Joshua Wong which disbanded before the entry into force of the new law.
During a late-night briefing, police said those arrested were part of a group that had previously lobbied for foreign sanctions.
“After the National Security Law came into effect, this group was still active,” Chief Superintendent Li Kwai-wah told reporters.
On the mainland, the China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial Tuesday that Lai’s arrest showed “the price to pay for dancing with the enemy.” The Beijing-backed newspaper added that “justice delayed does not mean absence of justice.”
Beijing has called Lai a “traitor” in the past.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a “patriot” and said his arrest showed Beijing had “gutted” Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.
In response to the crackdown, the United States last week imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials, including city chief Carrie Lam.
China has condemned the sanctions as “barbaric” and has imposed retaliatory sanctions on some senior US politicians and leading human rights activists.
The UK, meanwhile, said Monday’s arrests were further proof that the Security Act was a “pretext to silence the opposition”.
The Chinese Embassy in London responded by urging the UK to stop “using press freedom as an excuse to discredit” the legislation.
He accused the UK of “supporting anti-Chinese elements seeking to disrupt Hong Kong” and interfering in its internal affairs.