The Society of Editors has called on the UK Government to take all steps possible to secure the release of publisher and free media campaigner Jimmy Lai and journalists arrested in Hong Kong.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said the Government was “deeply concerned” over the arrest of Hong Kong media tycoon and democracy campaigner Mr Lai and others, including a freelance journalist working with ITN.
It is reported the arrests were made under the newly imposed national security law introduced by Beijing last month.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said it was encouraging that the UK Government had spoken out quickly to condemn the arrests, but said that more than words were required.
“The Government rightly prides itself on placing itself and the UK at the forefront of the battle to maintain free media where it exists and to encourage it where it does not through the Global Campaign for Media Freedom.
“It is precisely this sort of action against freedom of the media the campaign is targeted towards and the world will be watching to see if strong words are backed by further measures.”
The Number 10 spokesperson added: “Freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the Sino-British joint declaration and basic law and is supposed to be protected under article four of the national security law.
“This is further evidence that the national security law is being used as a pretext to silence opposition.
“The Hong Kong authorities must uphold the rights and the freedoms of its people.”
Mr Lai, publisher of popular Hong Kong paper Apple Daily, was arrested at his mansion. It was reported that 100 police then raided the offices of the paper (pictured above).
After he was arrested under accusations of collusion with foreign powers, Beijing said that Mr Lai must “be punished severely to restore peace in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office supported the decision to arrest Mr Lai, 71, saying that “elements who colluded with external forces to endanger national security” would feel the full force of the law.
“As long as this scourge is not eradicated, Hong Kong will not have its peace,” a statement said. “Jimmy Lai is the representative of this group.”
Police arrested nine others, including Wilson Li, a freelance journalist with ITN and an ex-member of the now-disbanded student group Scholarism.
The broadcaster said that he was detained in connection with the NGO Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong along with activist Andy Li. They both stand accused of collusion with forces.
An ITV News spokesperson added: “We can confirm that Wilson Li works for ITV News in a freelance capacity. We are concerned to hear of his arrest and are urgently seeking clarification of the circumstances.”