Taiwan government condemns Hong Kong media tycoon's arrest

02/28/2020 08:05 PM
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Jimmy Lai attending an anti-extradition protest in Hong Kong in August, 2019. (CNA file photo)
Jimmy Lai attending an anti-extradition protest in Hong Kong in August, 2019. (CNA file photo)

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) Taiwan's government on Friday condemned the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy businessman Jimmy Lai (黎智英) by Hong Kong police on charges of illegal assembly and intimidation.

In a press statement, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) expressed concern over Lai's arrest and urged the Hong Kong government to protect the right of its people to assemble as guaranteed by its Basic Law.

The Hong Kong authorities should prioritize COVID-19 outbreak containment instead of political reprisal, said the MAC, an agency that handle Taiwan's relations with Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

"Considering the current situation, we hope the Hong Kong side can exercise restraint and respond to people's demands sincerely, to be able to get to the crux of problems and resolve them," the MAC said.

Hong Kong police confirmed Friday noon that they detained Lai, the founder of Next Digital, which owns Apply Daily newspaper, and two other activists for participating in an unauthorized demonstration on Aug. 31.

Lai was also charged with intimidation in relation to an incident on June 4, 2017, in which he reportedly cursed at a reporter who works for the pro-Beijing Oriental Daily during a prayer rally commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident.

The media tycoon was released on bail a few hours after his arrest.

Lai is believed to be a major financier of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, according to some media reports.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's top diplomat Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) lamented Lai's arrest and showed support for him on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MOFA's) twitter account.

"Right when #Taiwan commemorates Feb 28, 1947 massacre & say no more to authoritarianism, we are saddened to learned about Jimmy Lai's arrest," he tweeted.

"@appledaily_hk is a symbol of press & speech freedom in #HongKong & will stand tall despite repeated assaults by evil forces," Wu said.

(By Chen Yun-yu, Lai Yen-hsi, Stanley Cheung and Emerson Lim)

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