Jimmy Lai is accused under the Hong Kong Security Act of being a Bloomberg reporter detained in China
Pro-democracy activist and media entrepreneur Jimmy Lay has been indicted under the Provincial National Security Act, amid a widespread crackdown on dissent by local authorities
the main points:
- The media mogul could face life in prison
- A Bloomberg reporter, Haze Fan, has been arrested by authorities under the laws
- Australian journalists have been affected by China’s crackdown on Hong Kong
Local TVB reported Friday that Lai, who founded the Apple Daily tabloid, has been charged with colluding with foreign forces and endangering national security.
Mr. Lai was arrested under the National Security Act in August. He and two executives of Next Digital, the company that runs Apple Daily, were later charged with fraud over allegations that they violated the company’s office space lease terms. He was refused bail earlier this month.
Mr. Lai is the most famous person out of more than two dozen charged under the law since it was implemented in June.
He is due to appear in court on December 12th and could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
This news comes as the Chinese authorities have detained a Chinese citizen working for Bloomberg News in Beijing on suspicion of endangering national security.
Bloomberg News employee arrested
According to a Bloomberg report, Haze Fan was spotted escorting her from her apartment building by plainclothes security officials on Monday, shortly after she called one of her editors.
“Mrs. Fan, the Chinese, has been detained by the National Security Bureau in Beijing in accordance with relevant Chinese law, on suspicion of her involvement in criminal activities threatening national security,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in response to a Reuters inquiry.
“The case is currently under investigation. Ms. Van’s legitimate rights have been fully secured and her family has been notified.”
The National Security Bureau in Beijing was not immediately available for comment.
“We are very concerned about it and are actively talking to the Chinese authorities to better understand the situation,” a New York-based Bloomberg spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
Ms Van has worked at Bloomberg since 2017 and previously worked for CNBC, CBS News, Al Jazeera and Reuters, Bloomberg reports.
Chinese citizens working for foreign media in China are classified as news assistants.
The National Security Act encourages a media crackdown
Beijing imposed the National Security Act in response to the protests in Hong Kong that began in June 2019.
The demonstrations began over the proposed extradition bill and expanded to include demands for more democracy in the former British colony.
The legislation prohibits secession, sabotage, terrorism and collision with foreign powers to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
In some cases, those charged under the National Security Law may face trial in mainland China, where the legal system is extremely vague.
The sweeping legislation sparked more public protests and led to complaints that Beijing was violating the autonomy promised by Hong Kong when it was delivered to China from Britain in 1997.
Critics said the law is also detrimental to Hong Kong’s status as a commercial hub.
Foreign media operating in China have come under increasing pressure, and China has expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists from US media organizations this year by revoking their press credentials amid worsening relations between Beijing and Washington.
In August, authorities in Beijing arrested Cheng Li, an Australian citizen born in China and working for the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, on suspicion of illegal activities endangering China’s national security.
In September, Australia helped two Australian foreign correspondents, including ABC China correspondent Bill Bertels, leave China after they were questioned by the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
Apple Daily criticized the law on its front page on July 1, describing it as “the last nail in the coffin” of the region’s autonomy.
Lai called on other countries to take a tougher stance on China, and last year he traveled to the United States to meet with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the proposed handover bill.
He was also arrested in February and April on charges of participating in unauthorized protests.
He is also facing charges of joining an unauthorized protest marking the anniversary of June 4, 1989, the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
AP / Reuters
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