Hong Kong police raid private offices of media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai
Hong Kong media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy lai said on Thursday that police raided his private offices, months after his arrest under a new national security law, and that the newsroom of his Apple Daily newspaper had also been swept away by hundreds of officers.
Speaking to local media ahead of a court appearance on Thursday, Lai said Hong Kong police raided his private offices and “took everything away.”
“I have no comments. I don’t know what their intention is,” he said, according to RTHK. “They wanted to collect, they wanted to get something against me. I do not know what it is.”
The founder of the media company Next Digital, which manages the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, added that “the police did not even wait for the lawyers before removing everything”.
Lai’s assistant Mark Simon also announced the raid on Twitter, writing that 14 police officers visited Lai’s office and confiscated documents. Lai, 71, is an outspoken pro-democracy figure who regularly criticizes China’s authoritarian regime and the Hong Kong government.
“I spoke to the police, they said they would stay until our lawyer arrived,” Simon wrote. “They didn’t, they took some documents and left before our lawyer arrived.”
In a statement, Hong Kong police confirmed that they conducted a search on Thursday at an office in Kwun Tong district in Hong Kong and that “some relevant exhibits have been seized for investigation and no one has been arrested today “.
Police said the search operation was linked to ten arrests made in August under the National Security Act on suspicion of colluding with a foreign country to endanger national security and of conspiracy to defraud. The statement did not mention Lai by name.
Lai was among those arrested in August, and Next Digital’s headquarters were also raided the same day. He was then released on bail. Some staff members broadcast live on Facebook when the Apple Daily newsroom was taken by storm in the early hours of the morning, and shares of Next Digital jumped 1,100% over two days in August, as people bought to show their support for Lai, Bloomberg reported.
The raid took place hours before Lai’s court appearance on Thursday to face charges of participating in an unauthorized rally on June 4. Lai and several other pro-democracy activists, including Lee Cheuk-yan and Joshua Wong, were indicted after participating in a now banned candle light. vigil marking the bloody repression of Tiananmen in China in 1989. The vigil is held every year.
Simon said on Twitter that the police “are always trying to turn civil disputes into criminal cases.” He said the funds Lai was using to support Apple Daily have been frozen.
The National Security Law, which prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, added to fears that it could be used to silence dissent.
Democracy advocates say the legislation effectively ends the “one country, two systems” framework in which semi-autonomous Hong Kong has operated since Beijing took over the former British colony in 1997.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.