After Jimmy Lai Arrest, Images Show Hundreds of Hong Kong Police Officers in Apple Daily Offices

Multi-millionaire media tycoon and pro-democracy supporter Jimmy Lai was arrested by Hong Kong police on Monday, accused of collusion with "foreign powers" in violation of a controversial new national security law.

Lai, 71, who has been a frequent critic of both Chinese and Hong Kong leadership, is the founder of Next Digital, which publishes tabloid newspaper Apple Daily.

Today, it is believed that the media boss was detained alongside his sons Timothy and Ian, alongside a number of other business executives from Next Digital.

Mark Simon, one senior Next Digital executive, tweeted that Lai had been arrested at his home this morning under suspicion of "collusion with foreign powers." Simon later said Hong Kong police had gone to the newsroom floor of the Apple Daily newspaper.

Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time.

— Mark Simon (@HKMarkSimon) August 9, 2020

Images from the newsroom floor shared to social media show swarms of police officials entering the building, with footage recorded inside showing officers picking through files and documents. It is unclear if they had been looking or something in particular.

After the arrest of Jimmy Lai, police also raided the Next Digital office which houses Apple Daily. Latest @ https://t.co/1f8lCWx0LR pic.twitter.com/RXArEqyYWa

— Chungyan Chow (@ChungyanChow) August 10, 2020

Images from inside @appledaily_hk's building. Yes, this is #HongKong. pic.twitter.com/lgPyOoiLhs

— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) August 10, 2020

Almost 200 police stormed into @appledaily_hk’s headquater. The arrest of @JimmyLaiApple is not only the suppression of himself but also freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

The largest pro-democracy media is now facing huge challenges ahead. pic.twitter.com/W7hpiVLZwS

— Joey Siu 邵嵐 (@jooeysiiu) August 10, 2020

#HongKong police’s “All-You-Can-Search” in @appledaily_hk HQ, making themselves at home, cops check out all employees’ desks and files, while turn their backs on the question, “Why did you guys bar the lawyers, won’t let them get in?”
Why, @hkpoliceforce? @StandNewsHK pic.twitter.com/V3IfgSgWDg

— Nikki😷 (@nikki_miumiu) August 10, 2020

According to the paper's reporting, the men were detained for allegedly violating Article 29 of the security law, which partially prohibits collusion with foreign forces.

As reported by Reuters, the Chinese-led law came into effect June 30, with "subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces" broadly punishable with up to life in prison. Lai has been the highest-profile arrest under the legislation.

Apple Daily, which live-streamed the incident as it unfolded, reported that close to 200 Hong Kong officers descended on the office building, seemingly without a warrant, at approximately 10 a.m. local time. Lai was brought there shortly before 11 a.m. in custody.

LIVE: POLICE SEARCHING APPLE DAILY OFFICE IN HONG KONG

Watch the live now: https://t.co/p3kmFlz59H#AppleDailyENG #NationalSecurityLaw pic.twitter.com/QjPCOONFDi

— Apple Daily HK 蘋果日報 (@appledaily_hk) August 10, 2020

In a statement, police indicated it had been a warranted search and confirmed multiple arrests took place this morning, without referencing Lai directly by name.

In a Facebook post, officials wrote: "At least seven local males, aged between 39 to 72 years, have been arrested on suspicion of collusion with a foreign country/external elements to endanger national security, conspiracy to defraud and other offences."

They said the probe was "underway" and that further arrests could be made. It was later reported that Wilson Li, a freelance videographer in Hong Kong, was also detained.

#BREAKING: Freelance ITV videographer in Hong Kong Wilson Li @wilsonlicc has been arrested over the newly implemented national security law. He becomes the ninth media person arrested today and the first worker at foreign media. #FreePress #HongKongProtests

— Ezra Cheung (@ezracheungtoto) August 10, 2020

In an updated post, police confirmed "nine local males" had now been arrested as part of the operation. It said the office search had been for "evidence gathering."

The move is likely to fuel ongoing tensions between China and the U.S., which recently sanctioned 11 officials—including leader Carrie Lam—for "undermining Hong Kong's autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly" of citizens.

One Hong Kong activist, Joshua Wong, said on Twitter the police response had been an alarming sight. "Can you imagine the newsrooms of @nytimes or @guardian encounter something like this? After HK police arrested @JimmyLaiApple, hundreds of police were sent to Apple Daily office without the search warrant," he wrote.

Can you imagine the newsrooms of @nytimes or @guardian encounter something like this? After HK police arrested @JimmyLaiApple, hundreds of police were sent to Apple Daily office without the search warrant. pic.twitter.com/mia12rSYyP

— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) August 10, 2020

While not a large-scale op, in 2013 technicians from British spy agency GCHQ oversaw the destruction of hardware that was used to store documents provided by former NSA staffer Edward Snowden in The Guardian's London office. British government officials had alluded to the threat of a police raid, according to the paper's own reporting.

Following the creation of a fashion brand called Giordano, Lai pivoted to media, turning Next Digital into one of the largest listed media companies in the country. The tycoon openly supports the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, angering China.

His outspoken stances have resulted in clashes with law enforcement in Hong Kong. In February, Lai was arrested and charged with illegal assembly and intimidation, accused of being present at an outlawed anti anti-government march in August 2019.

CNN reported the entrepreneur was charged in June with "inciting" people to take part in a candlelight vigil remembering the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

In July, Lai held talks in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, reportedly discussing human rights and law in Hong Kong. "Without freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry, Hong Kong is just a second-rate city," Lai wrote on his personal Twitter profile on August 8.

According to the BBC, Lai prevously told the AFP news agency that he expected police action under the new law, saying: "I'm prepared for prison. If it comes, I will have the opportunity to read books I haven't read. The only thing I can do is to be positive."

Hong Kong police
Police cordon off the area outside the Next Digital publishing offices as authorities conduct a search of the premises after the company's founder Jimmy Lai was arrested under the new national security law in Hong kong on August 10, 2020 ISAAC LAWRENCE/AF/Getty