Hong Kong media tycoon and prominent democracy activist Jimmy Lai was released on bail in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He was arrested on Monday, along with his sons and colleagues, under charges related to the new and widely decried security law recently imposed on the territory. Attended by his legal team, Lai visited his office and declared that his media empire would survive. Meanwhile, President Tsai Ing-wen has once again pledged that Taiwan will walk the talk on supporting Hong Kong’s democratic struggle.
Lai has been released on bail for NT$1.9 million. He returned to his company’s headquarters at noon on Wednesday, receiving a standing ovation from staff, and a bouquet of flowers.
Apple Daily will survive, he said confidently. Lai, his two sons, and multiple big names from Next Digital, were all arrested on Monday on suspicion of violating Hong Kong’s new national security law. Lai was then taken by police on a search of the Apple Daily headquarters, as well as his yacht in Sai Kung, before being taken into custody at Mongkok Police Station.
Doong Sy-chi, Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive
Even his yacht was searched, and his second son’s restaurant. It was clearly a very strong warning gesture, unless there was specific evidence they were looking for. Such evidence might be fabricated, though. As well as using this kind of “red terror” to suppress free speech, it is possible that China might draw on some other evidence to have Lai extradited to China.
International media attention is currently focused on Hong Kong police. President Tsai also addressed the topic before Wednesday’s DPP Central Standing Committee meeting.
Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan
“If the situation in Hong Kong continues to worsen, it will have a chilling effect on the media, and destroy the democratic rule of law in Hong Kong.”
She compared Hong Kong’s plight with Taiwan’s own political evolution.
“Taiwan has also journeyed from authoritarianism to democracy. We have been through the terror of mass arrests, and an age when the media was forced to let only one voice speak. We all know that the people resist totalitarian repression simply because of the wish to defend freedom and human rights. It is futile and fruitless to try to block the will of the people. I hereby call once more on the Beijing authorities to recognize: this controversy will only be resolved through sincere dialogue with the Hong Kong people.”
She also called on the international community not to take its eye off Hong Kong, and pledged that Taiwan would take practical steps to support the former British colony.
“As the current administration, the DPP will keep our commitments. We will continue to support the Hong Kong people in their fight for freedom and democracy. We will also require our governmental agencies to continue to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to Hong Kong citizens.”
This is just the latest of many pronouncements from Tsai on her determination to stand for Hong Kong. The humanitarian assistance mentioned refers to a Mainland Affairs Council scheme to support refugees from the territory who are in Taiwan.