Pro-democracy media tycoon freed on bail amid Hong Kong crackdown



HONG KONG, China, August 12 ------ Hong Kong pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai walked free on bail Wednesday, over 40 hours after he and other critics of China were rounded up by police as part of a widening crackdown on dissent. When Lai left a police station he was swarmed by a crowd of journalists and cheering supporters, some of whom waved copies of his Apple Daily in a show of their backing.


A clampdown has gathered pace in Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping security law in June, with opposition politicians disqualified and activists arrested for social media posts. The moves have provoked outrage in the West and fear for millions who last year took to the streets to protest communist China's tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city. In one of the most dramatic days of the crackdown, Lai was among 10 people detained under the new law on Monday as around 200 police officers searched the newsroom of his tabloid, which is unapologetically critical of Beijing.


Lai did not address the crowd upon his release, but he flashed a thumbs up as he was bundled into a car that inched away through the crowd. In a display of solidarity for Lai, people in the city rushed to buy Tuesday's Apple Daily, with the newspaper saying it had upped its print run to 550,000 from the normal circulation of 70,000. One restaurant owner bought 50 copies at a newsstand in the commercial district of Mong Kok and said he planned to give them away free of charge.


"Since the government doesn't allow Apple Daily to survive, then we as Hong Kongers have to save it ourselves," the man, who gave his surname as Ng, told AFP, as dozens of people lined up around the city from the early hours. The newspaper's front page showed a picture of Lai being led away in handcuffs, with the headline "Apple will fight on". Lai's arrest sparked a buying spree in shares of his media group, and between Monday morning and closing time on Tuesday its stock value had risen by more than 1,100 percent.


Source: philstar.com