Last year’s protesters in Hong Kong are quickly becoming this year’s martyrs for democracy. On Monday police arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the new national-security law, and some 200 officers raided the newsroom of his pro-democracy Apple Daily.
Police arrested Mr. Lai for sedition, criminal fraud and “collusion” with vaguely defined foreign forces. Mr. Lai’s real crime is that he is Hong Kong’s most effective international advocate and speaks the truth about the Communist Party. Mr. Lai met last year in Washington with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Members of Congress, and he has also written for these pages.
If Mr. Lai, 72, is convicted under the new law he may face life in prison. On Monday police also arrested Mr. Lai’s two sons and four employees of his publishing company. There’s reportedly also a warrant out for Mark Simon, an American citizen who works for Mr. Lai and was not in Hong Kong at the time of the arrests. All will have excellent lawyers, but in another assault on the rule of law only judges approved by the Communist Party can decide national-security cases. Lawmakers Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung have tried to defend the independence of Hong Kong’s judiciary, but authorities have disqualified them from running for office, and both may soon be removed from their seats on the Legislative Council.
China’s state-run media are already predicting the verdict. The Global Times wrote Monday that Mr. Lai “is widely seen as a ‘modern traitor.’” It also claimed that Apple Daily “has played a role of instigating hatred, spreading rumors and smearing Hong Kong authorities and the mainland for years,” “played an active role in inciting anti-government riots,” and “is backed and funded by foreign forces to bring about a ‘color revolution’” in Hong Kong. For years Beijing has coerced advertisers into blacklisting Apple Daily, and watch now as it tries to use the new law to drive the newspaper out of business.
All of this is a warning to local and international media in Hong Kong to shut up about freedom or also risk arrest. Mr. Lai is the most high-profile figure arrested under the new national-security law, but late last month the police arrested four little-known students, the youngest only 16.
Last week the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chief Executive Carrie Lam, police commissioner Chris Tang and nine others who have deprived Hong Kongers of their rights. China retaliated Monday with sanctions against 11 Americans including GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but that’s a sign the U.S. voices are having an effect. As the Communist Party silences Hong Kongers, it’s all the more important for the world to speak out for them.
The arrest of @JimmyLaiApple in Hong Kong is deeply offensive & an affront to freedom loving people around the world. When I met w/ Jimmy Lai @WhiteHouse, I was inspired by his stand for democracy & the rights & autonomy that were promised to the people of Hong Kong by Beijing. pic.twitter.com/ZwioCrvNb7