TAIPEI, Taiwan (Mainichi) -- Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily, the Hong Kong newspaper that continues to put out critical coverage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), spoke with the Mainichi Shimbun on Sept. 22 about his arrest by Chinese authorities, and the situation in Hong Kong.
In August, Lai was subject to a widely reported arrest by police on suspicion of acts contravening Hong Kong's national security law, and later released on bail. It is possible he could be extradited to mainland China, but Lai told the Mainichi Shimbun that he has no fears, and intends to continue fighting no matter what. He also praised the people of Hong Kong, and said that they were all heroes for fighting loyally for justice while being oppressed.
Lai was arrested on suspicion of collusion with a foreign power, and police are continuing with their investigation that aims to indict the newspaper owner. If he is indicted, Lai will be taken into custody again. It's also possible that he'll be imprisoned following a decision by Chinese authorities to judge his case pertaining to the national security law at a court in mainland China.
Lai said that all Hong Kongers are in the process of losing their freedoms, and that he wishes to continue fighting even if it runs the risk of him going to prison. His reason for doing so is that he feels that "all this I have today, my family, my career, my everything, this place (Hong Kong) gave to me. So if this is a time of paying back to what I have gotten from this society, this is a good time."
Hong Kong media's resistance to the national security law became stronger in response to the news of Lai's arrest, with many saying that the "One Country Two Systems arrangement between Hong Kong and China that guaranteed freedom of the press is being infringed upon."
Regarding his arrest, Lai also said, "I think the exercise of my arrest and the raiding of... our media building, definitely has a very effective intimidation effect on the Hong Kong people, and especially on the media organizations." Lai's philosophy is that, "In media, the information you deliver is also the freedom you deliver. Because the more information people have, the greater the freedom they have... In fact now, we have to fight for freedom."
Following Lai's arrest, movements to support the Apple Daily by buying the paper or taking out advertisements with it became widespread. Lai said that many people in Hong Kong hold strong feelings about wanting to protect their freedoms and the rule of law, even despite their fear of the national security law.
In 2019, Lai visited the United States and met with officials including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and sought their support. But since the national security law was enacted, acts seeking backing from countries such as the U.S. to pressure China have been deemed equivalent to committing forbidden acts of "collusion with a foreign power" as described in the national security law.
Lai says that now, petitioning a leader of a foreign country has become a very dangerous thing to do. But he maintained that he had ways of fighting back, including by responding to approaches from foreign media organizations. He said he believes that by having the international community that shares the same values toward freedom continue to raise its voice, the political situation gripping China could change, and lead to rescuing Hong Kong.
In a message directly for Japan, he asked that its people "please tell your government what you think about CCP, and what you think. You should do something to help Hong Kong. I think by voicing out to your government about your concern about Hong Kong, it will be enough to help us."
The maximum penalty for breaking the Hong Kong national security law that went into force on June 30 is an indefinite prison sentence. It treats acts relating to secession, subversion of the central government, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers as criminal activity. The right to interpret what words and actions constitute breaking the law lies with the Chinese authorities.
The interview with Jimmy Lai was held online.
(Japanese original by Shizuya Fukuoka, Taipei Bureau)