Hong Kong police raided a private office of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai on Thursday as part of their investigation into whether he has broken Beijing’s new national security law.
Lai, 71, is among more than two dozen people who have been arrested under a draconian security law imposed by Beijing at the end of June to quell massive, often violent pro-democracy protests over the past year.
Police confirmed the raid was triggered by officers from the same newly formed national security unit that first arrested him in April.
“Some relevant exhibits were seized for investigation and no person was arrested today,” the police said.
Lai accused officers of removing items before his lawyers could get there.
“It seems that they are looking for every possible reason to charge me,” Lai told reporters.
“The police didn’t even wait for the lawyer to come before they took things away, so that’s not rule of law,” he added.
Lai was first detained under the new law in August on suspicion of “collusion with foreign forces” and fraud. Officers raided his Apple Daily newspaper that day and he was later released on bail.
He also faces prosecution over his alleged part in last year’s protests.
Mark Simon, one of Lai’s top aides, said 14 police officers raided an office of a company owned by Lai on Thursday.
“(The) goal here is to cut money off to Apple Daily,” he told AFP.
Simon, who is also a director of the raided office, said he spoke by phone with the officers and said they ignored requests to wait for company lawyers.
Hong Kong police’s statement did not address the accusation they acted before lawyers were present but they said they had a warrant from a magistrate.
A few hours later, Lai appeared in court for a procedural hearing in the prosecution of some two dozen activists who took part in a vigil earlier this year, marking Beijing’s deadly 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Apple Daily is Hong Kong’s most popular tabloid.
It is unapologetically pro-democracy and critical of both Beijing and Hong Kong’s appointed leaders.
In April, Lai said he had provided HK$550 million ($71 million) of his own money to keep the newspaper afloat.
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