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Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai calls for ‘patient’ democracy fight after release

Hong Kong media tycoon and newspaper founder Jimmy Lai, center, walks out from a police station after being bailed out in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. The rounding up of the paper’s founder Jimmy Lai, the previous day and a raid on its headquarters have reinforced fears that a new national security law will be used to suppress dissent in Hong Kong after months of anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai said on Thursday he was overwhelmed by the support he got after becoming the most high-profile person to be arrested under a new national security law and urged patience in a “long-term fight” for democracy.

Lai, a staunch supporter of the city’s democracy movement, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces as police raided the offices of his Apple Daily tabloid.

Read more: Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily vows to ‘fight on’ after owner Jimmy Lai’s arrest

He was released on bail early on Wednesday, and greeted by a throng of supporters chanting “fight till the end”.

In a #LiveChatWithJimmy video appearance on Twitter, Lai thanked his supporters and said their action showed the police raid was a “violation of Hong Kong people’s belief” in wide-ranging freedoms, which he likened to oxygen.

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“The oxygen is getting thin, and we are all choking, but when we’re choking we’re still taking care of each other and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom,” he said.

Lai, who China sees as a “traitor”, was arrested under a new security law imposed by Beijing on June 30 in response to a year of pro-democracy unrest in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula aimed at preserving its autonomy.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, fuelled by fears Beijing has been eroding city freedoms, has enjoyed and sustained broad support in the city.

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Click to play video: 'More anti-Beijing critics arrested under Hong Kong security law' More anti-Beijing critics arrested under Hong Kong security law
More anti-Beijing critics arrested under Hong Kong security law – Aug 10, 2020

Lai said pro-democracy activists had to play a long game.

“We cannot be radical, we cannot confront them face-to-face because we’re just like an egg and they are a high wall,” he said.

“We have to flexible, and innovative and patient, but persist.”

Read more: Hong Kong police arrest media tycoon Jimmy Lai under new Chinese security law

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

Critics say the law brings semi-autonomous Hong Kong closer to mainland China’s authoritarianism, while its supporters say it will bring stability to the city and safeguard its prosperity.

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Click to play video: 'Hong Kong police arrest media tycoon, raid Apple Daily newsroom' Hong Kong police arrest media tycoon, raid Apple Daily newsroom
Hong Kong police arrest media tycoon, raid Apple Daily newsroom – Aug 10, 2020

Since Lai’s arrest people have been queuing up early in the morning to buy his Apple Daily, and many have also bought shares in Next Digital, Lai’s media company that publishes his newspaper, sparking a rally of more than 2,000% at its peak.

Lai called the rise in share price an “ephemeral phenomenon” and urged people “not to touch it”.

(Writing by Marius Zaharia Editing by Robert Birsel)

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