Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has been telling foreign media that the only way to deter or at least slow down the mainland’s takeover of Hong Kong is through pressure from Western governments, especially the United States. There is a widespread belief within the opposition and anti-government movement that only pressure from the United States, especially tough sanctions, will deter Chinese interference. Sadly, they are terribly wrong; it has achieved the opposite. An unprecedented series of punitive actions, including sanctions against local and mainland officials such as Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, did not stop the high-profile arrest of Lai . And it wasn’t just him. Police also arrested his two sons and his top lieutenants: Next Digital CEO Cheung Kim-hung, chief operating officer and chief financial officer Royston Chow Tat-kuen, chief administrative officer Wong Wai-keung and chief executive of Next Animation Studio Kith Ng Tat-kong. Meanwhile, there is a warrant for the arrest of his long-time American executive assistant Mark Simon, who is believed to be in Taiwan. In normal times, US pressure may factor into Beijing’s calculations. When Lai recently travelled to Washington, doors opened. Major news outlets offered themselves as unrestricted platforms for him to spread his views on Hong Kong and the mainland, with nary a critical question asked. He is particularly close to the Republican Party establishment and some of its prominent figures. But now that Washington has practically declared total hostility short of a shooting war on China, all gloves are off – on both sides. The resistance movement thought it could stop Beijing through the threat of “mutual destruction”, or laam caau , by bringing the local economy to its knees. It also thought the US could help them, unaware that American politicians have their own calculations and priorities. Hong Kong people can make a wasteland of their own home, and Beijing still won’t budge. Quite simply for the Chinese leaders, sovereignty trumps prosperity. Calling on the US to intervene is precisely what Beijing considers foreign interference. The opposition and anti-government activists keep overplaying their hands and then complain Beijing is playing hard ball. More than anything else, the significance of Lai’s arrest is that Washington has virtually declared that he is under its protection. Now, though, Hong Kong and Beijing can claim that the law is the law. Now there is nothing they can do about Lai – it’s up to the judges and prosecutors.