HK Newspaper Prints 550,000 Copies After Founder, Activist Arrested Under Controversial Law

Media mogul Jimmy Lai received a hero's welcome as he returned to his office.

A pro-democracy newspaper in Hong Kong ramped up its production in response to the arrest of its founder under the city’s new national security law.

Apple Daily, founded by Jimmy Lai, announced that it printed 550,000 copies on Tuesday (local time), up from its usual publication of 70,000.

What happened: On Monday, Hong Kong police raided Apple Daily’s headquarters and arrested Lai on suspicion of “colluding” with foreign forces — an offense punishable under the Beijing-backed national security law.

  • Lai, who also holds a U.K. citizenship, is so far the most high-profile personality detained under the law.
  • The media tycoon already faces several charges for his involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests, as well as his attendance in a Tiananmen Square massacre vigil in June.
  • At least nine other people — including two of Lai’s sons and activist Agnes Chow — were arrested in Monday’s operation.
  • The raiding officers emerged from the newly-created National Security Department, which ran the operation after an “in-depth investigation” and under a magistrate warrant.
  • A representative for China’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said in a statement that it “firmly supports” the arrests, according to CNN.

The aftermath: Following Lai’s arrest, Apple Daily increased its circulation and urged the public to buy the paper to show their support.

  • On Tuesday, Apple Daily’s front page featured an image of Lai’s arrest and the headline “Apple Daily must maintain its operations.” The newspaper put up 550,000 copies in circulation.
  • By Wednesday, Lai and most others were released on bail. Apple Daily staff livestreamed his return to their office.
  • “I’m very touched, we will fight on. We have the support of the Hong Kong people. We can’t let them down,” Lai said. He also joked, “Luckily I was not sent back to mainland China.”
  • If convicted, Lai could face three to 10 years in jail, or up to life for an offense “of a grave nature,” according to the Guardian.
  • In a proof of public support, Next Digital, Apple Daily’s parent company, saw its shares skyrocket by more than 1,100% in Hong Kong this week.

Chinese state newspaper Global Times has since criticized Lai for his alleged actions. “Lai has gone too far on this path. He has fallen completely into the US orbit. His efforts not only aim at pushing Hong Kong society toward the US in terms of values, but also kidnapping Hong Kong interests to place Hong Kong on the US chariot – thus fundamentally turning Hong Kong, China’s window to the outside world, into the US anti-China frontline,” it said.

While Apple Daily is based in Hong Kong, Taiwan appears to be its largest market. For the 2019 financial year, Taiwan made up its largest audience of readers with around 12 million monthly unique visitors (compared to 10.3 million in Hong Kong), according to the South China Morning Post.

Feature Image via Getty

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