Jimmy Lai, who has now become an international sensation for taking on the Chinese Communist Party fearlessly, was arrested by the erstwhile autonomous city’s police on Monday, in line with the enforcement of the draconian National Security Law, whose only purpose is to round up the dissidents, pro-democracy activists and staunch the CCP critics. The arrest of Jimmy Lai by the CCP also marked a raid on the newsroom of the widely read newspaper of Hong Kong – Apple Daily, of which Lai is the owner. The police took loads of sensitive documents along with them, further displaying the CCP’s utter disdain for free media.
Jimmy Lai was born to a wealthy family, however, when the Communists took over mainland China in 1949, his family lost everything. Lai, through sheer hard work, went on to create an international clothing brand – Giordano. With the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, Jimmy Lai became a pro-democracy activist and a staunch critic of the Communists.
He started writing columns and went on to establish a publishing house that became one of Hong Kong’s most influential. As China responded by threatening to shut his stores on the mainland, leading him to sell the company, Lai launched a string of popular pro-democracy titles that now include– Next, a digital magazine, and the widely read Apple Daily newspaper, which now finds itself in the centre of a CCP-inflicted crackdown.
Apple Daily is known for being fearless when it comes to reporting on the atrocities of the CCP. With the passing of the National Security Law, while the daily made some changes to better adapt to the latest realities, it did not give up on its editorial stance, which was explicitly pro-democracy. Inevitably, it was bound to be under imminent attack by the Communist Party.
So, when the CCP sent its minions to crack down on the daily with the expectation that it could arm-twist Jimmy and his editorial board into submission, it was met with stiff resistance not just from the employees of Apple Daily, but also from the people of Hong Kong as a whole, who thronged the streets late night to buy copies of the newspaper.
Hong Kong residents have showered Apple Daily with support, and are lining up to buy print copies. The newspaper said it printed 550,000 copies of its Tuesday paper, compared with a regular run of about 70,000. Hong Kongers are buying large numbers of the paper and also making the same available for others. Jimmy Lai, in an interview to AFP in June, had said, “I’m a troublemaker. I came here with nothing; the freedom of this place has given me everything.” He added, “Maybe it’s time I paid back for that freedom by fighting for it.”
Not only have sales of the daily skyrocketed, but the stocks of Apple Daily’s parent company – Next Digital have also shot up. Many in Hong Kong bought Next Digital stock after the police raid, and its price surged by more than 1,100 per cent from Monday to Tuesday, briefly making it Hong Kong’s most valuable media holding.
The Chinese Communist Party is eyeing on independent media houses in Hong Kong and is working overtime to destroy it. Earlier, TFI had reported how Alibaba Group had procured South China Morning Post, and how the shift in their editorial policy from that of a rebel to a stooge is slowly taking place. The diminishing freedoms of what were earlier independent media houses of Hong Kong serves the CCP’s purpose of taking over Hong Kong completely and paralysing any pro-democracy activism which may take place via the media.