EU, UK denounce Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai's arrest

Media mogul Jimmy Lai was among nine detained on charges that include "colluding with foreign forces", on Aug 10, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG, LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - The European Union on Monday (Aug 10) accused China of using Hong Kong's new security law to crack down on media freedom, after the arrest of tycoon Jimmy Lai.

A spokesman for Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, said Lai's arrest and the raid on his newspaper Apple Daily "stoke fears" for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

"The European Union recalls that the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is a central element of the Basic Law and the 'one country, two systems' principle," Peter Stano said.

"In addition, media freedom and pluralism, are pillars of democracy as they are essential components of open and free society," the spokesman said.

Lai, 71, was among nine detained Monday on charges that include "colluding with foreign forces" in an operation targeting his Hong Kong publishing group, Next Digital.

It was the latest police operation against dissidents under the sweeping new law introduced at the end of June, despite local street protests and international concern.

Britain, meanwhile, said it was deeply concerned by the arrest. "This is further evidence that the national security law is being used as a pretext to silence opposition. The Hong Kong authorities must uphold the rights and freedoms of its people," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said. "We are deeply concerned by the arrest of Jimmy Lai and six other individuals in Hong Kong. Freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and basic law, and is supposed to be protected under Article Four of the National Security Law."

Beijing has welcomed the arrest, and accused Lai of being an "anti-China rabble-rouser."

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