Dozens of Hong Kong citizens gathered in shopping malls across the city Tuesday to call for press freedom, one day after Hong Kong police raided the local Apple Daily newsroom and arrested its owner, Jimmy Lai, under the city’s new “national security” law.
Lai, a Hong Kong media tycoon, is also a prominent pro-democracy figure in the city. He was arrested Monday along with nine other pro-democracy activists, news executives, and his sons for alleged offenses under the city’s new national security law, including “collusion” with foreign forces, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.
Using the Telegram messaging app, organizers called for participants to gather at four separate malls across the city “for a sing-along demonstration,” or chanting of slogans in support of press freedom. According to the report, some chants, such as “freedom be with me with an Apple a day,” directly referenced Monday’s raid of the Apple Daily newsroom.
Many demonstrators carried copies of Apple Daily. The pro-democracy newspaper reportedly expected the show of support, printing at least 550,000 copies on Tuesday “in anticipation of mass purchases,” HKFP noted.
At a mall in the Mong Kok area of Hong Kong, one student reporter covering the demonstrations was “pushed to the floor by the police as officers conducted stop-and-search actions among the crowd,” according to the report. “Police issued penalty tickets to him for violating Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] social distancing rules. Others were also fined after police said they were not ‘proper journalists.’”
In other instances, Hong Kong police forces “raised a purple flag to warn the crowd that they may be chanting slogans or displaying materials that are in contravention of the national security law,” the report stated.
In June, China imposed a “national security” law on Hong Kong aimed at quelling the city’s year-long pro-democracy movement. The law criminalizes what Beijing deems a threat to national security: terrorism, colluding with a foreign power, secession, and “subversion of state power,” a vague catchall. Hong Kong citizens face a minimum of ten years in prison if convicted of committing the new crimes.
In response to Tuesday’s press freedom demonstrations, Hong Kong police said that crowds in the districts of Mong Kok and Sha Tin had taken part in “an unauthorized assembly and may have committed offenses under a city-wide group gatherings ban” in place during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Police strongly condemn such irresponsible actions that endangered public health. Police have zero-tolerance towards illegal acts and will take enforcement action resolutely,” the security forces said, according to the report.