The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Friday condemned the arrest and imprisonment of Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai after he was denied bail on fraud charges.
"The IFJ strongly condemns his repeated arrests and calls for the authorities to respect Hong Kong's constitutional commitment to press freedom. The IFJ urges Hong Kong police to release Lai and cease biased investigation towards pro-democracy media institutions," the watchdog said in a statement.
The IFJ said: "Jimmy Lai is a high-profile target of the Hong Kong authorities and it is clear the ongoing intimidation and his repeated arrests is aimed at sending a clear and decisive message to all media to step back and toe the Beijing line."
This comes after, Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, on Thursday was reported to have been charged with fraud and then denied bail. In August, the tycoon was arrested under the controversial new national security law.
This development comes amid the rising condemnation of China for pronouncing the prison sentence to three Hong activists including, Joshua Wong, related to a pro-democracy protest last year over a proposed extradition bill with China.
Apart from Wong, other activists who have been jailed are Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam. Wong received 13.5 months behind bars, Chow 10 months and Lam 7 months, CNN reported.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday had said: "As 3 Hong Kong activists begin prison sentences, I urge the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities to bring an end to their campaign to stifle opposition."
This comes after a number of former pro-democracy lawmakers have been arrested in the month of October over protests after the draconian national security law was imposed on the city by Beijing. The law criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms. It came into effect from July 1.
Several of those disqualified were sitting lawmakers, who were subsequently ejected from the parliament by Beijing overruling constitutional precedent and bypassing Hong Kong's courts on November 11, sparking the mass resignation of the entire pro-democratic camp.
Several countries have criticised China, with the European Council saying the move to disqualify opposition lawmakers constituted a "further severe blow" to freedom of opinion in the city and "significantly undermines Hong Kong's autonomy." (ANI)