The founder of Apple Daily, the popular news platform, was arrested on Monday morning at his home in Hong Kong, media reported. Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, whose publication has been a leading anti-establishment voice, was held as part of an operation targeting attendees of an August 31 anti-government protest, sparked by a contentious extradition bill that now stands withdrawn.
Lai was arrested for illegal assembly and intimidating a journalist, the media reported, from his Ho Man Tin home in suburban Hong Kong by the Crime Branch of the Hong Kong Police. A police source confirmed to the media that he was part of an operation targeting those involved in the August march, with three pro-democracy activists, Lee Cheuk-yan, Yeung Sum and Albert Ho Chun-yan, also arrested.
Apple Daily has been at the forefront of covering the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, with reporters, editors and citizen contributors aiding widespread coverage of the government's hardline stance to extradition, overreaction by the police and the withering effects on Hong Kong's economy. Lai had personally taken part in multiple protests.
While Lai has been seen as a pro-democracy champion, he is viewed as a traitor in Mainland China, and some unidentified people firebombed his home in December last year.
Lai's arrest rounds off a rough week for Apple Daily, which has seen its advertising revenue hit hard by the COVID-19 virus that has roiled the region. According to one report, Apple Daily is expected to fire as many as 40 employees in response to the decline.