Free speech arrested: Hong Kong police arrest pro-democracy publisher for 'collusion' under the national security law

The collapse of free speech continues in Hong Kong under the new national security law. Today a police raid targeted pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai and his newspaper Apple Daily. After rounding up Lai at his mansion, 200 police officers went to the offices of Apple Daily. This journalist published a photo of the police filing in:

Do they have enough police to handle one newspaper? And for some reason, Mr. Lai, who was arrested at his home, was brought to the offices and paraded around in handcuffs.

Hours later, Mr. Lai was being led through the newsroom of his newspaper, still handcuffed, while more than 200 officers filed into the building and rifled through desks. Reporters began livestreaming video of the raid, panting as they raced to document a story unfolding in their own offices. When one asked Mr. Lai about the arrest and the raid, he replied gruffly, “How should I think about it, dude?”…

Apple Daily is a fiercely pro-democracy newspaper that regularly criticizes the Hong Kong government and the Chinese leadership. It gives extensive coverage in print and online to the protest movement, and runs front page headlines reminding readers of when to take to the streets…

The live footage showed a tense scene in the newsroom. When an editor demanded to know the exact boundaries of the area being searched, he was shoved by shouting officers. “Remember his face,” an inspector said, raising his index finger. “If he still behaves like this, give him a warning. And if he doesn’t listen to the warning, arrest him.”

You get the picture. Police are putting on a show to make sure everyone understands who is in charge. According to CNN, the actual charge against Mr. Lai is collusion with unspecified foreign forces:

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, known for his support of the city’s pro-democracy movement and criticism of China, has been arrested on suspicion of “colluding” with foreign forces, according to local police…

A police spokesman told CNN earlier in the day that Lai was among them and that he had been arrested on suspicion of collusion.

Mr. Lai’s sons were also arrested even though they are not involved in Apple Daily. That will come in handy when police make threats about what will happen to Mr. Lai’s family if he doesn’t begin to exercise more restraint over his publication’s criticism of China. (In fact, it’s similar to the way prosecutors went after Gen. Flynn by threatening to prosecute his son unless he cooperated.)

Because all of this was happening at a newsroom, the entire thing was livestreamed by the paper. As Mr. Lai was led away a reporter asked him if he was worried. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he said. He added, “I will accept what comes my way.”

Here’s a response to the arrest from Sec. State Pompeo:

None of this is really a surprise at this point. At the end of last month, Hong Kong police arrested four students for pro-democracy statements posted online. At the same time several leading pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running for office on the grounds that they had not supported the new national security law. That was the camel’s nose under the tent and 10 days later we’ve got the whole camel, so to speak. The police have quickly gone from arresting a few people for social media posts to arresting the leading pro-democracy publisher in the country.

This is what the end of free speech looks like. This is what China wants for the entire world.

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