Reader: Wait, they’ve arrested Steve Jobs? But how is that possible? Or is it Steve Wozniak? Why have they arrested Steve Woz-
It’s Apple Daily, dear reader, not Apple.
Reader: Oh, yes, of course. Apple Daily.
You have no idea what Apple Daily is, do you?
Apple Daily is a tabloid-style newspaper in Hong Kong, dear reader. It is reportedly the second most read newspaper and news site in Hong Kong, and was listed as the third most trusted paid newspaper in the country last year by a university survey.
It has been described as a pro-democracy newspaper and is often critical of the Chinese government.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because its founder, Jimmy Lai, was arrested on Monday (10 Aug) under the new national security law imposed by China.
Alleged Collusion With Foreign Forces
According to South China Morning Post, Lai was arrested for alleged collusion with foreign forces on Monday at his home, followed by the arrests of two of his sons and former student activist Agnes Chow Ting.
A few of Lai’s associates at Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company, were also arrested.
Some 200 officers were sent to Apple Daily’s premises where they conducted a raid that lasted nine hours.
Officers assert that they did not scrutinize or seize the journalists’ work, but they were seen leaving the building with stacks of documents in blue plastic boxes.
Considering Apple Daily’s pro-democracy stance, many believed that Lai was arrested for speaking out against China, but the official reason given for his arrest was “collusion with a foreign country, uttering seditious words and conspiracy to defraud”.
Wait, so who did he collude with?
Called For Sanctions Against Hong Kong
The authorities did not specify who Lai supposedly colluded with, but said that three of the suspects had been involved in a group to call for sanctions against Hong Kong by foreign countries.
Other suspects had allegedly helped foreign countries channel money in through an overseas bank account.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing said it “resolutely backed” the newly-established national security unit’s decision to arrest Lai and his associates, calling them a “faction that subverts China and stir chaos in Hong Kong”.
“He brags about fighting for America arrogantly, taking part to plan, organise and initiate a raft of unlawful resistance movements, using his media to create and spread rumours, inciting and supporting violence, and providing funds for those advocating [Hong Kong independence]”, the spokesman said.
At this point, you might be a little confused. Why exactly are Hong Kong and China at odds?
A Brief History
To understand why, we’ll need a brief history lesson.
Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but it did not have complete control of the country.
There was an agreement that there’d be a “one country, two systems” principle in place.
This agreement granted Hong Kong autonomy and other democratic rights, such as freedom of assembly and speech and an independent judiciary, things China doesn’t have, according to the BBC.
Under this agreement, Hong Kong was supposed to enact its own National Security Law. They tried in 2003 but decided against it after protests erupted.
Then, in 2019, another wave of protests broke out over an extradition law, and that turned into a larger pro-democracy movement.
As you may remember, these protests went on for a long time, and often turned violent.
China wasn’t a big fan of these protests of course, because of the whole anti-China thing, so they don’t want it to happen again.
National Security Law: Goodbye Freedom
That’s why, six weeks ago, China imposed a new national security law that grants them the power to establish a formal police presence in Hong Kong.
It also gives them the authority to suppress free speech and the right to protest, and even slap violators with long jail sentences.
The new law bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, reported SCMP.
Critics worry that this law could threaten Hong Kong’s democracy, which would be a violation of the “one country, two systems” agreement.
Protestors have taken to the streets in response and several nations, including the UK, have condemned the move.
This is why Lai’s arrest has sparked an outcry over media freedom because his newspaper is anti-China and anti-government.
Lai is also a staunch advocate of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and supports anti-government protests, according to SCMP.
Apple Daily Prints Over 500,000 Copies After Arrest
In response to the arrest, Apple Daily printed over 500,000 copies of its Tuesday publication, up from the usual 100,000.
“Yesterday will not be the darkest day for Apple Daily as the subsequent nuisances, suppression and arrests will continue to induce fear in us,” Apple Daily wrote in an editorial.
“Nevertheless, the prayers and encouragement of many readers and writers make us believe that as long as there are readers, there will be writers and that Apple Daily shall certainly fight on.”
— Apple Daily HK 蘋果日報 (@appledaily_hk) August 11, 2020
Many readers came out in support of Lai and purchased the paper, with some queuing as early as 2am, reported Al Jazeera.
“What the police did yesterday interfered with press freedom brutally,” one reader told Reuters.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had similar concerns, with a spokesman saying “This is further evidence that the national security law is being used as a pretext to silence opposition.”