About a dozen people gathered outside the headquarters of local tabloid Apple Daily to toast the arrest of the paper’s founder Jimmy Lai—but the short-lived party turned out to be an expensive one after police fined them for violating social distancing laws.
Live videos showed a a man and woman popping champagne and setting off poppers near the Tseung Kwan O office as others watched nearby.
“This [celebration] is our citizen’s wishes [come true]… we are extremely happy today,” one woman said, accusing the paper of “colluding with foreign forces” and “destroying Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.”
Pro-Beijing supporters came to @appledaily_hk building to celebrate Jimmy Lai's arrest. They brought champagne, but ended up being fined by police for violating social distancing rules. #HongKong pic.twitter.com/sQ5FyyHTUI
— Frances Sit (@frances_sit) August 10, 2020
Ignoring repeated instruction from police to disperse, some of the revellers were then stopped and ID-checked. They are seen attempting to reason with the officers, who said that they had gathered with a common purpose and had already been given sufficient warning.
Police said seven people, including three males and four females, were handed penalty notices for breaching the gathering ban. The offense carries a fixed fine of HK$2,000 (US$258).
The media tycoon was apprehended Monday morning at his Ho Man Tin home for “offences include collusion with a foreign country/external elements” under the national security law, police said. At least eight others, including senior staff at Apple Daily, were also arrested.
Earlier, around 200 police officers thoroughly raided the paper’s Tseung Kwan O headquarters. Live videos showed officers cordoning off office cubicles and leafing through documents. The police said they had a warrant to conduct the search.
Lai’s case is the highest profile arrest since the national security law was enacted in Hong Kong. The sweeping legislation criminalizes what authorities deem as acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, offenders of which face life imprisonment.
The events are seen as Beijing’s latest attempt to crack down on what remains of press freedom in Hong Kong, where a newly enacted national security law threatens to erode the city’s autonomy and crush dissent.
“Using its sweeping powers under #NationalSecurityLaw, #China now extends its reach to #HK media by clamping down on critical voices on media, halting flow of information to international audiences and turning the city’s media outlets into state-controlled propaganda apparatus,” activist Joshua Wong tweeted.
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