《TAIPEI TIMES》Hong Kong police arrest Jimmy Lai for illegal assembly
Publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, center, leaves Kowloon City Police Station in Hong Kong yesterday. Photo: AFP
/ Reuters, HONG KONG
Hong Kong police yesterday arrested publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai （黎智英）, an outspoken critic of Beijing, and two other pro-democracy activists on charges of illegal assembly, drawing international condemnation.
Lai, a self-made millionaire who has made financial contributions to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and has been a target of criticism in mainland media, was picked up by police at his house, Cable TV and TVB News reported.
The Apple Daily, one of the publications under Next Digital Ltd （壹傳媒） in which Lai is non-executive chairman, said he was accused of participating in an illegal march on Aug. 31 last year.
It said Lai had followed a crowd along a central route for two hours on that day, singing hymns and praying.
Veteran democracy activists and former Hong Kong legislators Lee Cheuk-yan （李卓人） and Yeung Sum （楊森） were also arrested on the same charges, Cable TV reported.
Hong Kong police confirmed the three had been charged for participation in an unapproved gathering and would appear in court on May 5.
Lai was seen by a reporter leaving Kowloon City Police Station in a black Mercedes. He gave no comment.
“The charges will not hinder our fight for democracy, freedom and our human right to continue to gather, march and protest,” Lee told reporters in front of the Cheung Sha Wan Police Station.
Lai was previously arrested in 2014 for refusing to leave a pro-democracy protest site. Following his arrest he resigned as Apple Daily editor-in-chief.
In Taipei, the Mainland Affairs Council expressed its concern over Lai’s arrest and urged the Hong Kong government to protect the right of its people to assemble as guaranteed by its Basic Law.
The Hong Kong authorities should prioritize COVID-19 outbreak containment instead of political reprisal, the council said.
“Considering the current situation, we hope the Hong Kong side can exercise restraint and respond to people’s demands sincerely, to be able to get to the crux of problems and resolve them,” it said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu （吳釗燮） also lamented Lai’s arrest on Twitter.
“Right when #Taiwan commemorates Feb 28, 1947 massacre & say no more to authoritarianism, we are saddened to learned about Jimmy Lai’s arrest. @appledaily_hk is a symbol of press & speech freedom in #HongKong & will stand tall despite repeated assaults by evil forces,” he wrote.
Amnesty International said the arrests were “a shameless attempt to harass and silence those in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.”
The Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington-based non-governmental organization, said that the arrests were “blatant acts of political suppression by the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party.”
Additional reporting by CNA