China Arrests Hong Kong Media Mogul Under New Security Law

( China made its first high-profile arrest under new security laws for Hong Kong.

Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon from Hong Kong, was arrested for apparently colluding with foreign forces. Several executives at his company, Next Digital, were arrested as well.

Lai, who is 71 years old, founded and runs the newspaper Apple Daily, which is pro-democratic. His sons Ian and Timothy were also arrested on Monday for collusion with foreign forces and conspiracy to defraud. Seven individuals in total were arrested as part of this sweep under Hong Kong’s new security law.

A senior executive at Next Digital, Mark Simon, said:

“It’s a combination of charges. Most are being arrested on some type of conspiracy to commit fraud charges … but really it’s just an effort to decapitate the management as they took out the top senior management with those charges.”

The police raid was caught on livestream footage, which showed roughly 200 police officials storming into the building of Next Digital on Monday morning. In addition to raiding the Next Digital office, police raided a restaurant that Ian Lai owns.

Jimmy Lai originally made his fortune in retail and clothing, which he then used to launch a media business. He pledged to uphold Hong Kong’s civil liberties through his media company. Lai is well-respected among the pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong.

Lai was arrested back in April for “organizing and participating in unauthorized assemblies” as well.

China’s government has long singled out Lai for targeting, as Beijing has been looking to tighten its control over what was an autonomous province. Global Times, a nationalistic Chinese state tabloid, named Lai as potentially subject to criminal prosecution because of subversive talk on his Twitter account.

Following the publication of that story in May, Lai wrote an op-ed in The New York Times that read:

“I have always thought I might one day be sent to jail for my publications or for my calls for democracy in Hong Kong. But for a few tweets, and because they are said to threaten the national security of mighty China? That’s a new one, even for me.”

Lai faces other charges in addition to the ones levied against him Monday. He was arrested in February for participating in an illegal assembly. He was also charged with incitement for being a part of the annual June vigil that commemorates the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The most recent charges are the most serious ones to date, though. They are all under the new national security law that China implemented back on June 30. Penalties for breaking these new laws — including collusion with foreign forces, terrorism, secession and subversion — can carry with them life in prison penalties.

Offenders can also be extradited to mainland China for cases that are considered particularly “complex.”

While China officials as well as the chief executive of Hong Kong have said the new laws would apply only to a small group of people, many in Hong Kong have begun to self-censor themselves out of fear that they will be prosecuted.