By Yoyo Chow
HONG KONG, Aug 11 – Hong Kong’s Apple Daily tabloid responded with defiance on Tuesday to the arrest of owner Jimmy Lai under a new national security law imposed by Beijing, promising to “fight on” in a front-page headline above an image of Lai in handcuffs.
Readers queued from the early hours to get a copy of the pro-democracy tabloid a day after police raided its offices and took Lai into detention, the highest-profile arrest so far under the national security law.
The front page headline read: “Apple Daily must fight on.”
More than 500,000 copies were printed, up from the usual 100,000, the paper said on its website.
Dozens of people queued for the paper in the working-class neighbourhood of Mong Kok as early as 2:00 a.m. (1800 GMT). Some vendors said they sold out during the morning rush-hour.
“What the police did yesterday interfered with press freedom brutally,” said 45-year-old Kim Yau as she bought a copy.
“All Hong Kongers with a conscience have to support Hong Kong today, support Apple Daily.”
Lai was detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as about 200 police searched the newspaper’s offices, collecting 25 boxes of evidence.
Shares in Lai’s media company, Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily, soared on Monday as online pro-democracy forums called on investors to buy shares to show support.
Mainland-born Lai, who was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a penniless 12-year-old, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Communist Party rule in Beijing.
His arrest comes amid a crackdown against pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong which has drawn international condemnation and raised fears for the freedoms promised by Beijing when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
The sweeping new security law imposed on June 30 punishes anything Beijing considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a “patriot” and said his arrest showed that Beijing had “eviscerated” Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.
Beijing has in the past labelled Lai a “traitor.”
(Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Stephen Coates)