Shares in Jimmy Lai's Next Digital soar in wake of Hong Kong arrest   

Media tycoon is arrested in the highest-profile detentions since Hong Kong's national security law was imposed by Beijing

Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai being arrested in Hong Kong on Monday Credit: TYRONE SIU  /Reuters

Shares in one of Hong Kong's biggest media firms soared after pro-democracy sympathisers flocked to support its founder Jimmy Lai following his arrest under a controversial new security law.

Next Digital stock skyrocketed by 260pc after dismayed activists used the former British colony's LIHKG web forum to call on investors to support the company.

Mr Lai was arrested on Monday along with other executives of the company and his two sons in the highest-profile detentions since  the draconian security law was imposed by Beijing's Communist rulers in June.

Hong Kong police said the men had been arrested on suspicion of "colluding with foreign powers", and raided the publisher's headquarters. Their actions are likely to fuel fresh fears that Hong Kong is becoming a police state where Western business practices and freedoms will not be tolerated.

The crackdown comes days after the US government announced sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland China officials, including the city state's chief executive Carrie Lam, in a move likely to further strain relations between the two superpowers. 

A seasoned pro-democracy campaigner who owns popular tabloid Apple Daily, Mr Lai wrote an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this year stating that China was repressing Hong Kong with the security law.

He wrote: "I have always thought I might one day be sent to jail for my publications or for my calls for democracy in Hong Kong. But for a few tweets, and because they are said to threaten the national security of mighty China? That’s a new one, even for me."

Mr Lai was arrested in February and April for allegedly taking part in last year's unauthorised protests. He also faces charges for joining in with a vigil in June to mark the anniversary of Beijing's massacre of Tiananmen Square protestors in 1989.

Mr Lai, 72, founded Next Digital in 1990. The company publishes Apple Daily and Next Magazine, two of the city's most popular publications. 

Apple Daily's offices were also raided, but bosses at the pro-democracy paper vowed to keep publishing.