The rights group, Amnesty International has denounced the arrest of a prominent newspaper publisher in Hong Kong. Jimmy Lai and six others were arrested on Monday under the territory’s controversial national security law.
The police have also raided the premises of Lai’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper. Citing this blatant violation of all journalistic impunities, Amnesty International warned that media freedom was under threat in Hong Kong.
“The arrest of Jimmy Lai for allegedly ‘colluding with foreign powers’ is a disturbing demonstration of how the Hong Kong authorities intend to use the new national security law to threaten press freedom,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director.
Those arrested include four members of the paper’s staff and Lai’s two sons.
Hong Kong police said that all seven detainees were being investigated under Article 29 of the National Security Law, along with alleged conspiracy to defraud and other offences for which they could face a maximum of life imprisonment. They also warned more arrests may be made.
It was for the first time that the police relied on the controversial statute to raid a media house. Apart from the premise, a restaurant owned by Jimmy Lai’s son was also searched.
The central Chinese and Hong Kong governments have long accused individuals and civil society organisations of being steered by “foreign forces” in their activities, such as organising and attending peaceful protests, receiving donations, and criticising the government. Under the national security law, anyone who participates in these activities is potentially at risk of being charged for “colluding with foreign forces” and other new “crimes”.
“Penalising a media outlet, publisher or journalist solely for being critical of the government or the policies it promotes, is a restriction of the right to freedom of expression that can never be justified,” says Bequelin.
Under international law and standards, free, independent and diverse media are counted as the essential players in protecting the enjoyment of all human rights, including by facilitating the public’s right of access to information and ideas of all kinds.
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