The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today vehemently condemned the arrest of Hong Kong media executive Jimmy Lai and six others by Hong Kong police under China’s new national security law for the territory.

Jimmy Lai, his two sons and four executives of Apple Daily, pro-democracy tabloid newspaper founded by Lai, were arrested today in raids conducted on the house and business premises of Lai and his sons. More than 200 police officials were involved in the raids.

Lai was arrested in the early hours at his home on suspicion of “collusion with foreign forces”.  According to media reports, police arrested Lai’s elder son on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud while his younger son was detained on suspicion of collusion with foreign and external forces to endanger national security.

The police also arrested Apple Daily CEO Cheung Kim-hung and Chief Financial Officer Chow Tat-keun along with two other senior members of the publication’s staff. Police also seized laptops, mobile phones and documents.

Following the enactment of the National Security Law, Chinese and Hong Kong officials had assured that the law will deal with only a few offenders and that the rights enjoyed by the residents of the territory, including press freedom, would not be affected.

“Jimmy Lai’s arrest is highly reprehensible, and is a further demonstration that the so-called National Security Law is exactly what it appears to be: a tool to stifle all forms of dissent in Hong Kong”, IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said. “The arrest will spark off fear amongst journalists Hong Kong and force them to resort to self-censorship. The international community should not remain a silent spectator of this repression. The British government in particular should take immediate steps for Jimmy Lai’s release, as he is a British national.”

Lai is the first publisher to be arrested under the new law, which has attracted widespread condemnation from governments and civil society around the world. He has been arrested in the past, too. Lai was arrested along with at least 13 other pro-democracy figures on April 18 on charges of joining an anti-government protests in 2019 sparked off by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.