Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong's media tycoon said on Thursday that he was moved by the support he received after achieving the distinction of being the most high-profile person to be taken into custody under the new national security imposed by China. He asked people to employ patience in a "long-term fight" for democracy.

Lai, who has been a dedicated supporter of Hong Kong's democracy movement, was arrested on Monday under the suspicion of collusion with foreign forces after police raided his tabloid, Apple Daily. After being released on Wednesday on early bail, and was greeted by He was released on bail early on Wednesday, and received by a mass of supporters chanting "fight till the end".

Arrested Under the New Security Law

Jimmy Lai
Jimmy Lai Wikimedia Commons

In a #LiveChatWithJimmy video appearance on Twitter, Lai thanked his supporters and said their action showed the police raid was a "violation of Hong Kong people's belief" in wide-ranging freedoms, which he likened to oxygen. "The oxygen is getting thin, and we are all choking, but when we're choking we're still taking care of each other and keep resisting and keep fighting for our rule of law and freedom," he said.

Lai, who China sees as a "traitor", was arrested under a new security law imposed by Beijing on June 30 in response to a year of pro-democracy unrest in the former British colony, which returned to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula aimed at preserving its autonomy. Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, fuelled by fears Beijing has been eroding city freedoms, has enjoyed and sustained broad support in the city.

He said pro-democracy activists had to play a long game. "We cannot be radical, we cannot confront them face-to-face because we're just like an egg and they are a high wall," he said. "We have to flexible, and innovative and patient, but persist."

Bringing China's Authoritarianism Closer to Hong Kong

The law punishes whatever China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. Critics say the law brings semi-autonomous Hong Kong closer to mainland China's authoritarianism, while its supporters say it will bring stability to the city and safeguard its prosperity.

Since Lai's arrest people have been queuing up early in the morning to buy his Apple Daily, and many have also bought shares in Next Digital, Lai's media company that publishes his newspaper, sparking a rally of more than 2,000 percent at its peak. Lai called the rise in share price an "ephemeral phenomenon" and urged people "not to touch it".

(With inputs from agencies)