Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence go to bat for imprisoned Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai

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Top US officials are speaking out against the arrest and imprisonment of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The 73-year-old billionaire and pro democracy advocate was denied bail Saturday after being charged this week with violating the city’s new national security laws and collusion with foreign forces.

“Hong Kong’s National Security Law makes a mockery of justice. @JimmyLaiApple’s only ‘crime’ is speaking the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarianism and fear of freedom,” tweeted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late Friday evening. “Charges should be dropped and he should be released immediately.”

Vice President Mike Pence also tweeted in support of Lai.

“Today’s charges against @JimmyLaiApple in Hong Kong are an affront to freedom loving people around everywhere,” Pence wrote. “Jimmy Lai is a hero and I remain inspired by his stand for democracy & the rights that were promised to the people of Hong Kong.”

#FreeJimmyLai the vice president added to his message.

Lai, who owns the sassy pro-democracy Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily, has long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese Communist Party, which took possession of the city in 1996 when it was formally returned to China after 156 years of British rule.

Lai is expected to appear in court Saturday, his paper reported. He was previously arrested in August on charges of fraud relating to the lease of the building where Apple Daily operates.

After a year of unrest and pro-democracy protests, China has moved aggressively to curb free speech and expression in the city, which included imposing the new security law in June.

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