Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, activist Agnes Chow released on bail

Hong Kong media tycoon a Jimmy Lai was released on bail after spending over forty hours in police custody. Mr Lai has not yet made any comments after his release. His bail was set at HK$300,000 ($38,461), plus a HK$200,000 ($25,805) surety.

A young political activist, Agnes Chow, was also released on bail just before midnight. Chow says her arrest was ”political persecution,” and accused the regime of using the national security law to ”suppress political dissidents”. Her passport was confiscated and she was required to pay a deposit of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars (about US $ 26,000).

The news of Monday’s arrest of 10 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures has rumbled around the world. The actions are generally seen as China’s latest endavour of intimidation and punishment for Hong Kong people who advocate for their rights. The security law takes over anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces threatening up to life in prison.

The Hong Kong police demonstrated their frightening force raiding the office of Apple Daily, the pro-democracy newspaper, under the use of new national security law which denies the freedom of press.

The state television broadcast the live stream of the raid.

The founder of the tabloid Jimmy Li was arrested along with his two sons on suspicion of foreign collusion. Mr Lai was already facing charges related to the anti-government protests in the territory last year.

Under the “One country, two systems” model after the handover, Hong Kong was supposed to retain a high degree of autonomy until 2047.

But as Beijing’s moves to restrict freedoms in the territory became more concerted and frequent in recent years, Lai’s pro-democracy appeals gained urgency.

His newspaper and news site remain one of the city’s most-read publications, despite recent financial pressure.

Originally from mainland China, Lai was smuggled into Hong Kong as a child, according to Reuters, and worked his way to the top of the city’s clothing industry as the founder of Giordano, a popular retailer.

By his account, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre awakened his political consciousness.

“I was Chinese but could never relate to China,” Lai said in a New York Times interview later that year. “I lived with that typical contradiction of overseas Chinese. But the students in Tiananmen changed all that.”

In 1995, two years before Britain handed Hong Kong over to China, Lai founded the city’s Apple Daily newspaper. At the time, for many residents of the city, the idea of China withdrawing the city’s political freedoms seemed far removed.

Lai made no secret of his criticism of Beijing, drawing rebukes from mainland Chinese outlets that accused him of treason.

He met with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last year.

At home in Hong Kong, Lai continued to participate in numerous pro-democracy rallies, amid growing tensions. In February, he was arrested over his earlier participation in an unauthorized protest but was later released.

The national security law heightened the stakes, introducing potential lifelong prison sentences.

“I’m prepared for prison,” Lai told Agence France-Presse earlier this summer.

His activism, he maintained in an interview with his own paper, was his responsibility alone. The assurance did not stop the arrest of his sons or a raid on the Apple Daily offices.

“Hong Kong’s press freedom is now hanging by a thread, but our staff will remain fully committed to our duty to defend the freedom of the press,” the newspaper’s publishing company, Next Digital, said in a statement.

Agnes Chow is a key figure of the new generation of civil rights activism. She became famous during the protests in 2014, when Agnes was only 17. In 2016 Chow founded Demosisto party along with other young activists.

Chow renounced her British citizenship to run for the city’s Legislative Council in 2018. But her bid for public office was rejected after she published a pro-democracy manifesto in which she called for Hong Kong’s self-determination.

“The ban against me isn’t personal,” Agnes said in the interview for the Guardian, responding to the ban at the time. It is “targeting an entire generation of young people who have a different view from the government.”

Both Jimmy Lai and Agnes Chow, knowing well the political climate in China, told on various occasions that they are ”prepared for time in jail”.

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