Jimmy Lai, two other pro-democracy activists arrested

February 28, 2020 10:58
Jimmy Lai, shown here before he was taken away by police in December 2014, is accused of participating in an illegal assembly on Aug. 31. Photo: Reuters

Publishing magnate Jimmy Lai Chee-Ying and two other pro-democracy activists were arrested by police on Friday on charges of illegal assembly.

Lai, a self-made millionaire who has been a major financial patron of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, was picked up by police at his house, Cable TV and TVB News reported.

Apple Daily, one of the publications under media company Next Digital (00282.HK) in which Lai is non-executive chairman, said he was accused of participating in an illegal march on Aug. 31.

Veteran democracy activists Lee Cheuk-yan and Yeung Sum were also arrested on Friday on the same charges, Cable TV reported.

Former lawmaker Lee is vice chairman of the Labour Party. Yeung is also a former lawmaker and ex-chairman of the Democratic Party.

Police said they would hold a media briefing on the arrests later on Friday.

The arrests come after a period of relative calm in the city following months of intense anti-government protests.

Hong Kong saw one of its worst clashes on Aug. 31, with police firing tear gas and water cannons at pro-democracy protesters who threw petrol bombs. Officers chased protesters at the Prince Edward MTR Station and beat up passengers on the platform and train.

Authorities have arrested more than 7,000 people for their involvement in the protests, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.

Public anger has grown over the months due to perceptions of China tightening its grip over the city. Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.

Lai was previously arrested in 2014 for refusing to leave a key pro-democracy protest site in the center of the city. Following his arrest, he resigned as editor in chief of Apple Daily.

He has also come under scrutiny from Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency when they raided his home in 2014.

Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington based non- government organization, said on Friday that the arrests were “blatant acts of political suppression by the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party”.

The group said in a statement it was demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Lai and the other pro-democracy activists.

Mark Simon, Lai’s top aide and a senior executive at Next Digital, said on Twitter that Lai, Lee and Yeung were “not in any way a flight risk. They need to be processed quickly and out of that police station as quickly as possible.” With Reuters

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CG