Hong Kong's Apple Daily has responded defiantly to the arrest of owner Jimmy Lai under a new national security law imposed by Beijing, promising to fight on in a front-page headline over an image of Lai in handcuffs
Readers queued from the early hours to get copies of the pro-democracy tabloid a day after police raided its offices and took Lai into detention, the highest-profile arrest under the national law.
"Apple Daily must fight on," the front-page read, amid fears the new law is eroding media freedoms guaranteed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
"The prayers and encouragement of many readers and writers make us believe that as long as there are readers, there will be writers, and that Apple Daily shall certainly fight on."
More than 500,000 copies were printed, compared with the usual 100,000, the paper said on its website.
Mainland-born Lai, who was smuggled into Hong Kong on a fishing boat when a penniless 12-year-old, is one of the most prominent democracy activists in the city and an ardent critic of Communist Party rule in Beijing.
His arrest comes amid a crackdown on the pro-democracy opposition in Hong Kong that has drawn international criticism and raised fears for freedoms under Beijing's "one country, two systems" formula.
The sweeping security law imposed on June 30 punishes anything China considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
The city's Beijing-backed government and Chinese authorities say the law is necessary to restore order after months of anti-government protests last year.
Hong Kong has since become another source of contention between the United States and China, whose relations were already at their most strained in years over issues including trade, the coronavirus, China's treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority and its claims in the South China Sea.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday called Lai a "patriot", saying Beijing had "eviscerated" Hong Kong's freedoms.
Britain said Lai's arrest was further evidence the security law was a "pretext to silence opposition", to which China's embassy replied by urging London to stop "using freedom of the press as an excuse to discredit".
Police detained Lai for suspected collusion with foreign forces after about 200 officers searched the newspaper's offices, collecting 25 boxes of evidence.
Handcuffed and apparently wearing the same clothes after spending the night in jail, he was driven by police on Tuesday to his yacht which police searched, according to media footage.
Beijing has labelled Lai a "traitor" in the past and issued a statement supporting his arrest.
The Beijing-backed China Daily newspaper said in an editorial Lai's arrest showed "the cost of dancing with the enemy". The paper added that "justice delayed didn't mean the absence of justice".
Police arrested 10 people in all on Monday, including several other Apple Daily executives and 23-year-old activist leader Agnes Chow who was later released on bail.
Australian Associated Press