We have to ‘save it ourselves’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 12, 2020

We have to ‘save it ourselves’

Defying China, Hong Kongers rush to buy pro-democracy newspaper

Hong Kongers rushed to buy pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily yesterday in a show of support for its owner, who was arrested a day earlier as police rounded up critics of China.

A crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong has gathered pace since China imposed a sweeping security law in June, with opposition politicians disqualified and activists arrested for social media posts.

The moves have provoked outrage in the West and fear for millions who last year took to the streets to protest communist China's tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.

In one of the most dramatic days of the crackdown, media tycoon Jimmy Lai was among 10 people detained under the new law on Monday as around 200 police officers searched the newsroom of his tabloid, which is unapologetically critical of Beijing.

In a display of solidarity for Lai, people in the city rushed to buy Tuesday's Apple Daily, with the newspaper saying it had upped its print run to 550,000 from its normal circulation of 70,000.

One restaurant owner bought 50 copies at a news stand in the commercial district of Mong Kok and said he planned to give them away for free. "Since the government doesn't allow Apple Daily to survive, then we as Hong Kongers have to save it ourselves," the man, who gave his surname as Ng, told AFP, as dozens of people lined up around the city from the early hours.

The newspaper's front page showed a picture of Lai being led away in handcuffs, with the headline "Apple will fight on".

With Hong Kongers too fearful to stage mass protests like last year, some looked to other inventive ways to show solidarity. Lai's arrest sparked a buying spree in shares of his media group, and between Monday morning and closing time on Tuesday its stock value rose by more than 1,100 percent.

Hong Kong's new national security law criminalises secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces. The most serious crimes under the law -- which was introduced on June 30 and is not supposed to be retroactive -- carry up to life in jail.

Lai, 71, was held on charges including colluding with foreign forces and fraud. Among the others arrested were two of Lai's sons, young pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow.

Hong Kong's police has said those arrested were part of a group that had previously lobbied for foreign sanctions.

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