Next Digital, the parent company of Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, saw share prices soar on Monday after the high-profile arrests of multiple executives, including founder and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, under Hong Kong’s new national security law.
Shares dropped to a low of HKD 0.075 yesterday morning, following the announcement of the arrests, before rebounding with a 353% increase to a record HKD 0.34 in the afternoon – the highest it’s been since June last year.
Next Digital’s shares have continued to rise in value today, reaching HKD 0.66 as of 10:30 AM, which marks a 159% increase from yesterday’s close.
Analysts have indicated that speculation that Next Digital could sell itself as a shell company, which would enable a backdoor listing for other companies, could have driven the price up. In addition, pro-democracy activists have asked others to buy the stock in a show of solidarity on social media platforms.
Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, CFO and COO Chow Tat-kuen, Lai’s two sons, and two other senior staff were also taken into police custody.
The arrests are the latest developments in an ongoing top-down push to crack down on subversive activity and foreign collusion that threatens national security, and have sparked international concern. US Vice President Mike Pence condemned Lai’s arrest, describing it as “deeply offensive & an affront to freedom loving people around the world” in a Twitter post early today.
Similarly, a British spokesperson for Boris Johnson indicated the UK was “deeply concerned” and that the arrests were “further evidence that the national security law is being used as a pretext to silence opposition”, according to Reuters.
Since the National Security Law came into effect last month, The New York Times has chosen to relocate a third of its Hong Kong team to Seoul, South Korea, citing visa issues and growing concerns regarding how the new law will affect journalistic operations.
Last October, former Financial Times Asia news editor Victor Mallet was also denied a work visa after moderating a controversial talk with Andy Chan Ho-tin, founder of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party.
Update: On 11 August, Jimmy Lai, Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, and Lai’s two sons were released on bail.