Protest buying: Shares of arrested Hong Kong tycoon’s firm surge

They’ve occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the city’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police.

Now Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai, the publisher who was arrested Monday under the city’s new national security law, Hong Kongers have been buying shares of his media network Next Digital Ltd. The result has been a more than 1,000% gain in two days that propelled the stock to a six-year high.

“There are a huge number of retail investors buying,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi. “If you just look at the bid-ask price and the size of single trades, most are super small.”

The huge gain, organized via online forums, shows the struggle Beijing officials will have suppressing the desire to show opposition to intensifying mainland rule — even as the right to protest publicly is being curtailed by social distancing restrictions and the national security legislation.

The tactic also helps Lai financially. The media owner controls 71% of the shares according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The rally has lifted their value by HK$2.3 billion ($303 million).

Supporters are finding other ways to show solidarity. Local media reported people lining up to buy copies of Lai’s flagship newspaper Apple Daily this morning. The newspaper said in a Facebook post it increased printing to 550,000 copies on Tuesday due to surging demand, versus around 70,000 two weeks ago.

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