Monday 10 August 2020 3:24 pm

Boris Johnson 'deeply concerned' by Jimmy Lai arrest

The government has accused China of using its new security law to “silence opposition” in Hong Kong after media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested today.

Lai, 71, is one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing.

Read more: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under new security law

He has become the most high-profile victim of a Beijing-backed crackdown following the passing of a new security law in June which critics said could mark the end of political dissent and freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK was “deeply concerned” by the arrest of Lai, who was detained along with six other individuals.

“We are deeply concerned by the arrest of Jimmy Lai and six other individuals in Hong Kong. Freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and basic law, and is supposed to be protected under Article Four of the National Security Law”, he said.

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“This is further evidence that the national security law is being used as a pretext to silence opposition. The Hong Kong authorities must uphold the rights and freedoms of its people.”

Lai was accused of collusion with foreign forces and the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper were raided by more than 200 police officers.

The new security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. 

Read more: Britain cannot stand by in the face of shocking human right abuses across Hong Kong

Critics say it crushes freedoms, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.

Lai’s arrest fuels fears that the ‘one country, two systems’ model introduced after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 is under threat as China pushes back against pro-democracy protesters.