“Apple Daily must fight on,” read a headline on the front page, which also carried a picture of Lai’s arrest on Monday.
Hong Kong residents lined up to buy the paper in a show of support for Lai and several other senior executives at the newspaper’s publishing company, Next Digital, who were arrested as part of the crackdown. The newspaper became sold out at several stores in the financial hub.
Next Digital’s shares surged 331.4 per cent by the end of the trading session on Tuesday.
Critics say the arrests, followed by an unprecedented raid on the newspaper’s offices by more than 200 police officers on Monday, may have marked the end of press freedom in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Lai, his associates and prominent activist Agnes Chow, were arrested on accusations of breaching Hong Kong’s new national security law, which introduces tough prison terms for acts of subversion, succession, and colluding with foreigners.
Asked about the future of press freedom in Hong Kong, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “there is nothing to worry about” as long as agencies and individuals in the city do not violate the law.
The law was met with swift criticism from Western powers, including the United States, which announced sanctions against Hong Kong officials believed to be suppressing freedoms in the city. China retaliated with sanctions against US politicians and heads of organisations.